More than 200,000 police cameras to be installed islandwide by 2030

Since their installation began in 2012, police cameras have aided officers to solve more than 5,000 cases. PHOTO: SINGAPORE POLICE FORCE

SINGAPORE - They have proven useful in deterring crimes and locating missing persons. The police will get greater access to such help, with more than 200,000 police cameras slated to be installed islandwide by 2030, up from the 90,000 already in place.

The cameras will be set up in public residential estates, neighbourhood centres and hawker centres, as well as commercial and entertainment districts.

Since their installation began in 2012, the devices have aided officers to solve more than 5,000 cases.

Deputy Assistant Commissioner of Police Kenneth Nge said on Thursday (Oct 7) that the cameras have been most effective in solving crimes related to unlicensed moneylending-related harassment and thefts.

Mr Nge, who is also assistant director of the operations systems division, noted that the cameras help curb physical crimes too.

For instance, unlicensed moneylending-related harassment cases involving damage to property in Housing Board estates dropped by 67.9 per cent, from 1,745 in 2015 to 561 last year.

Motor vehicle thefts at carparks plunged by 82.1 per cent, from 251 cases in 2015 to 45 last year.

Housebreaking in HDB estates decreased by 56.8 per cent from 74 cases in 2015 to 32 last year. Theft from motor vehicles at carparks dipped by 65.4 per cent from 690 cases in 2015 to 239 last year.

Mr Nge said the police cameras had been installed progressively over the years from 2012.

The cameras also provide clues to track down missing persons.

Citing an example from April last year, the police said they received a report at 10.50pm from a woman whose mother, who has dementia, had gone missing.

Officers obtained an image of the parent in her last-seen attire at the lift lobby of her residential block in north-eastern Singapore.

"Based on the missing person's build and attire, the police trawled through the cameras in the vicinity to trace her steps," said the police.

She was spotted on camera in an HDB block in the east at about 12.40am, and was taken to safe custody at 1.25am, within three hours of the report being lodged.

A missing person who was brought to safe custody within three hours of being reported missing, with the help of police cameras. PHOTO: SINGAPORE POLICE FORCE

Referring to some concerns that the cameras are an invasion of privacy, Home Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam said in Parliament in August that such claims overlooked the "basic" fact that most people want a safe and secure living environment.

Inspector Tan Wan Ting, an investigation officer at Bedok Police Division, spoke on Thursday about how the cameras aided the arrest of a man responsible for a series of attempted robbery cases in the vicinity of Bedok North in March last year.

Investigation officers Zaidi Salim (left) and Tan Wan Ting looking at footage from police cameras. PHOTO: SINGAPORE POLICE FORCE

She said the police had received a report that an unknown man had tried to rob a woman along Bedok North Street 3.

He fled after she shouted for help, and did not make away with anything. Tapping footage from police cameras, officers established his identity and arrested him on the same day along Bedok North Road.

The suspect behind a series of attempted robbery cases in the vicinity of Bedok North, captured on police camera. PHOTO: SINGAPORE POLICE FORCE

Inspector Zaidi Salim, an investigation officer at Bedok Police Division, said: "We would comb through an unlimited number of police cameras located around the estate until we find the suspect."

He added: "Police cameras have doubled our effectiveness in solving cases and play a complementary role in helping us solve crimes."

While noting the usefulness of police cameras, Inspector Tan said: "Ultimately, it still boils down to gathering evidence and having good interview skills when speaking with suspects, witnesses and victims, so we can piece together a comprehensive account of the incident."

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