SINGAPORE: The Home Team has been focused on transformation through the increased use of technology to deal with limits to increasing manpower and resources, said Minister for Home Affairs K Shanmugam on Monday (Mar 1).
Speaking at the Ministry of Home Affair's (MHA) Committee of Supply debates in Parliament, Mr Shanmugam highlighted that Singapore continues to be one of the safest places in the world and that people are confident that the Home Team will carry out its mission fairly and effectively.
"There is a limit to increasing our resources and manpower. It's in short supply all across Singapore," he said in his speech.
"To deal with this, we have been focusing on transformation, increased use of technology."
In the next few years, more police cameras will be installed across Singapore, with almost 90,000 cameras installed in major public locations, HDB estates, neighbourhood centres and car parks so far.
“That's been a game-changer to deter, investigate and solve crimes,” said Mr Shanmugam, adding that as of December 2020, police cameras assisted in solving nearly 5,000 cases.
“Surveys have shown people feel safer with the prominent placement of police cameras in their neighbourhoods.
“In the next several years, I promise that many more cameras will be installed across the island subject to the budgetary situation.”
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The police and the Central Narcotics Bureau are also working to sharpen their capabilities with technology for investigations, said the minister.
“Their investigation and case management systems are being digitised and automated and streamlined so that officers can access information and update cases on the move instead of having to go back to office to do it,” he said, adding that officers can now save time on paperwork and admin class.
The Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) is building the next generation of Smart Fire Stations starting with the new Punggol Fire Station, announced Mr Shanmugam in his speech.
“They will make greater use of sensors and automation to help with manpower management, operational response, decision making,” he added.
“Manual processes like tracking the readiness of emergency supplies, vehicles, rostering of duty personnel will all be automated.”
During an emergency, an artificial intelligence system will send critical information like the floor plans of buildings and a live video feed of the site to the officers where available, even before officers arrive on the scene, he said.
“That will help officers assess the situation, develop a plan faster, enhance their response.”
For example, video analytics technology will be applied to detect fire or smoke incidents or road traffic accidents from videos, said MHA in a factsheet.
This will then trigger notifications to the operations centre, which can then refer to the live feed to verify the incident and dispatch resources accordingly, the factsheet read.
Speech-to-text analytics software will also be applied to 995 phone calls to better analyse conversations in real-time, said MHA in the factsheet. This could also assist to automate the fields of the advanced medical protocol system form, it read.
The SCDF will also redevelop the Civil Defence Academy to include a digital learning lab. This will provide virtual reality training for officers, such as extricating people from a car wreckage, said Mr Shanmugam.
Technology will also have a role to play in Singapore’s prisons. Prisons use technology to monitor inmates in the community, and ensure their compliance with supervision conditions, he added.
“The vision is to have a smart prison that leverages technology to automate routine work, so that prison officers can be more focused on inmates’ rehabilitation,” said Mr Shanmugam, who is also Minister for Law.
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Community corrections are being expanded to allow more inmates to serve a larger part of their sentences in the community as long as it is safe to do so, he added.
The team is also developing a tracking device that looks like a digital watch and is more discreet than the ankle tag, said Mr Shanmugam.
This reduces the stigma, boosts the self-confidence of those being supervised and helps reintegrate them back into society, he added.
The Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) will also be issuing more types of documents in digital forms, like birth and death certificates and long-term passes, said the minister.
The Home Team Science and Technology Agency (HTX), which was set up in December 2019, is developing expertise in managing data centres and cloud-based technologies, said Mr Shanmugam.
Addressing manpower needs, Mr Shanmugam said HTX will need to hire a few hundred scientists and engineers over the next few years to build a “critical mass” of experts in areas like digital and crime scene forensics, robotics and automation.
“There are also other new developments that continue to drive up demand for the Home Team’s manpower,” he added.
For example, while ICA leverages technology, manpower is still needed to run operations at future checkpoints like Tuas Mega Port and the RTS Link, he said.
The SCDF will also need more ambulances and officers to attend to the growing number of medical emergencies from Singapore’s ageing population, said Mr Shanmgam.
The police will need to expand the deployment of in-situ reaction teams to patrol high footfall locations in Singapore to swiftly respond to armed terrorist attacks, he added.
Addressing the workload faced by police investigators, Mr Shanmugam noted that the number of investigation files increased by 36 per cent between 2015 and 2019.
“Cases have also become more complex. Crimes are increasingly tech-enabled. Perpetrators are often anonymous and may also be based overseas. (It) requires much more effort to track and identify them."