SINGAPORE: International crime-fighters need “major reinforcements” in their arsenal to better tackle changing security landscapes, and three areas of innovation - biometrics, data analytics and digital forensics - could be key, said Second Minister for Home Affairs Josephine Teo on Tuesday (Jul 2).
Global connectivity, technology and polarisation in societies are three reasons driving changes in the world’s security landscape, Mrs Teo said in her opening speech at Interpol World 2019. Of these, she highlighted polarisation of societies as the “most worrying development” as extremists now have tools of mass propagation at very low cost.
“The result is self-radicalisation, a previously unheard of phenomenon. In this new landscape, otherwise ordinary citizens can become explosive nodes of destruction without anyone noticing,” Mrs Teo, who is also Manpower Minister, added.
Given today’s situation, crime-fighters’ arsenal needs major reinforcements and not just incremental upgrades. “Policing needs to get better,” the minister said.
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Three areas of innovation “hold promise”, she added, highlighting biometrics, data analytics and digital forensics.
For biometrics, Mrs Teo said Singapore and several other airports are conducting trials for contactless immigration clearance systems, which uses a combination of iris and facial recognition to enhance operational efficiency and border security.
Changi Airport, for one, handles more than 220,000 passengers on its busiest day, the minister pointed out, so the question of managing heightened security risks yet still provide the experience of a world-class air hub has to be answered.
Biometrics also has the potential to rapidly solve crime, with facial recognition technology being able to scan through thousands of video footage to identify criminals, she added.
Data analytics is another area of potential. Mrs Teo said digitalisation is allowing police agencies around the world to obtain enormous amounts of data, but the information is useless without insight.
“If we can improve sense-making, then predictive policing can become a reality much as predictive maintenance helps to avoid breakdowns of critical infrastructure,” she said.
Citing the example of the Netherlands, she said Dutch police are working on the City Pulse project that uses a network of sensors to measure noise levels and even emotional tones in people’s voices.
This, in turn, could potentially trigger police to proactively intervene to moderate crime risks. The trial is ongoing and if it works, police resources can be better used, she said.
Digital forensics was another area mooted, with police now needing the ability to extract and analyse digital evidence from the latest Internet of Things (IoT) devices, among others.
She said criminals these days are “always ahead of the game”, reiterating a point made by Interpol Secretary-General Jurgen Stock in his speech on Tuesday. This is why there is a need to have research and development (R&D) into new investigative tools and techniques, she added.
The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), on its part, has made it a priority to reinforce its science and technology capabilities and is in the process of setting up a new Home Team Science and Technology Agency, Mrs Teo said.
The Singapore Police Force (SPF) is exploring the use of autonomous technology like robots and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to support officers in incident response.
It will also start testing the use of Sky Aerial Response Command (Sky ARC) - a fleet of drone-equipped vehicles - to help officers with better decision-making and response, she added.
Interpol’s Mr Stock said the aim of this year’s Interpol World conference is to bridge the present and the future, so as to find solutions to emerging crimes.
He said the “innovation tempo has soared” in recent years, and urged the global police community to collectively foresee, anticipate and prepare for the next breakthroughs and disruptions to come. The society at large is counting on this, he added.
This international collaboration was also picked up by Mrs Teo in her speech, saying that crime and terrorism are increasingly borderless and inventive.
“If we are to win this fight, we must support each other and become better together,” she said.
One way Singapore is doing so is supporting Interpol’s Regional Counter-Terrorism Node (RCTN) initiative. The minister said a Singapore officer was seconded to the RCTN Asia and South Pacific unit, which is housed in the Interpol Global Complex for Innovation (IGCI) based here.
Singapore and Brunei officers are also seconded to staff the ASEAN Cyber Capability Desk, which was launched last July. The desk drives regional operations to build capacity and enhance threat-related intelligence on cybercrime within Southeast Asia, she added.
“Each of us, on our own, will only learn so much and progress so far,” Mrs Teo said in closing.
“When we share notes and learn with each other, we can do so much more.”