NEA launches investigations after thermal camera catches smoker at HDB corridor

A Bedok resident has been told to provide details of a person smoking at the corridor of his unit, after a thermal camera installed by the National Environment Agency (NEA) caught the smoker on several occasions.

In a letter dated June 6 sent to the lessee of a unit at Block 620 Bedok Reservoir Road, NEA said a surveillance camera had caught on video "people smoking at the corridor... and entering/exiting from the unit" on 12 occasions from April 11 to 14.

Smoking at Housing Board common areas is an offence under Section 3(1) of the Smoking (Prohibition in Certain Places) Act.

According to the letter, the lessee is required to "provide relevant information of the offence such as the identity and address of the person who was smoking at or about the time of the alleged offence(s)."

If the lessee fails to furnish the information within 14 days, he could be charged under Section 4B of the same Act and fined up to $2,000 for a first-time offence.

Under the Act, a person found guilty of smoking where it is not allowed can be fined up to $1,000.

NEA said in a statement to The Straits Times that it has received 13 instances of smoking-related feedback at the block since February. It had "distributed educational pamphlets and worked with the town council to engage the residents".

 
 
 

It also conducted multiple rounds of surveillance at the block, including installing a thermal camera.

The camera caught a person smoking in the corridor on 12 occasions, which led to the investigations by NEA, including serving the letter to the lessee.

NEA will take appropriate action once investigations have been completed, it said.

In its statement, NEA said that since January, it has installed some 70 thermal cameras in residential areas and other areas with persistent smoking-related complaints.

NEA noted that with the deployment of thermal cameras, the privacy of the public is respected.

"The thermal camera focuses only on the common corridors, lift lobbies or staircase landings as these are smoking prohibited areas," it said.

"There are strict protocols governing the viewing of the footage, and only authorised NEA staff and the vendor may handle and view the video footage for official purposes. Footage that does not capture any smoking offences will be destroyed after three months."

The thermal cameras are part of NEA's ongoing enforcement efforts against people who smoke in prohibited places. More than 30,000 tickets were issued by NEA for smoking offences last year.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 13, 2019, with the headline 'Summons issued after camera catches smoker at HDB corridor'. Print Edition | Subscribe