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Police looking at video technology to combat crime

Video cameras are set to become a bigger part of a law enforcement officer's crime-fighting tools, as the Singapore Police Force turn to technology to boost their effectiveness.

SINGAPORE: Video cameras are set to become a bigger part of a law enforcement officer's crime-fighting tools, as the Singapore Police Force turn to technology to boost their effectiveness.

The number of Police cameras in public housing estates -- as well as in areas like Little India, Geylang, and Marina Bay -- will also go up.

These plans were revealed at the Police annual workplan seminar on Friday.

From June this year, officers from one Neighbourhood Police Centre will pilot body-worn cameras when responding to incidents.

The plan is to equip all frontline officers with such cameras by early 2015.

The model weighs just 79 grammes and is easily activated with the slide of a button.

During interactions, officers must inform a person that he is being recorded.

The cameras will allow officers to also capture crime scene information to aid investigation and cross-check allegations made by members of the public.

Another avenue to tap on technology is equipping fast-response cars with electronic eyes by mid-2015.

The Police will pilot an in-vehicle video recording system in some of their fast-response cars by June.

This will help officers take action against errant drivers, as well as provide possible leads for crime investigations.

It is also hoped that there can eventually be wireless streaming of live video feed from the incident location to the police's operations room and command post to boost situational awareness.

Processes will be in place to ensure the footage will not be tampered with.

In a closed-door speech, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Home Affairs Teo Chee Hean said Police have leveraged technology to support their efforts.

Pointing to loansharking activities, he said Police now deploy cameras comprehensively to act as a deterrent and to speed up investigations.

Mr Teo also highlighted that cooperation between the Police and the community helped reduce the scourge of loansharking activities.

"A good example of the holistic and systems approach is how Police has brought down the number of unlicensed moneylending (UML) and related harassment offences in a sustained manner.

"In the five years since 2009, concerted effort by the Police and our partners had more than halved the number of such cases -- from over 18,000 cases to slightly over 8,300 cases in 2013.

"This is a significant and dramatic improvement, but still higher than the level in 2004.," he said, adding that community partners have played a vital role in providing timely information on these activities.

He said the police force should systematically devise operational concepts and develop new capabilities to tackle emerging challenges such as cyber crime and new forms of commercial crime.

Police cameras are also expected to be installed at all 10,000 HDB blocks and multi-storey carparks by 2016.

T Raja Kumar, Deputy Police Commissioner, said: "We also take a lot of care to make sure that how we position the CCTVs, it is not positioned in a way that allows us to look into houses, for example.

"All these cameras are deliberately positioned to just capture the flow of people in and out of the block. So this way we are trying to minimise and mitigate the privacy concerns. Everything that we do we have to be very mindful about issues of privacy, and how to basically serve society's needs for law and order without overstepping the boundaries."

Mr Raja Kumar was speaking at a dialogue attended by more than 200 students from junior colleges and polytechnics.

During the dialogue, he and other members of the police force's senior management tackled questions that ranged from whether the force would consider hiring foreigners, as well as the challenges that come with the proliferation of social media.

As an example of community collaboration, Police also showcased how they worked with the Sultan Mosque to enhance security of its donation boxes following some thefts last year.

What the thieves did was to take a bag with a slit at its base, and place it over the opening of the donation box.

They would pretend to search through the bag, but in fact, what was happening is that they would insert a metal plate covered with an adhesive substance to fish money notes out of the donation box.

But Police have found a way to counter this.

Han Zechou, Officer-in-charge of Community Policing Unit at the Rochor NPC, said: "First a smaller slot, and a metal plate slanted at an angle below the slot. We proposed to have jagged edges at the end of the metal plate which would effectively trap the metal plate should it be able to enter the donation box. Subsequently, the metal plate can be seized as evidence."

Police hope this device can also be implemented in other religious institutions. 

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