S'pore police reveal what their cameras islandwide can see even at night

One criminal tried to avoid looking at the camera but it was no use.

Belmont Lay | October 11, 2021, 04:05 PM

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The Singapore Police Force plans to install 200,000 police cameras in total around the island by 2030 to deter and solve crime, as well as improve their sense-making capabilities on the ground.

They currently already have 90,000 cameras put up since 2012 at places such as public housing blocks and multi-storey car parks.

What these PolCams -- which is what the police cameras are called -- can see was revealed in the latest police release.

Investigating officers viewing police camera footage. Photo via Singapore Police Force.

Solve crimes

Since 2012, the police cameras have aided the police in solving 5,000 cases, which led the police to dub the devices as an "invaluable source of investigative leads".

At times, the cameras aid in identifying and tracing suspects within hours of a reported crime.

This is done via video analytics that allow officers to go through footage to look for investigative leads, even though the criminal act itself might not have been captured by the cameras.

The technology for video analytics is continuously refined to expedite the search for relevant footage and playback of recorded footage, the police added.

Robbery at Dakota Crescent

Previously on March 5, 2020, at about 8:10am, the police received a report from a 92-year-old man that he was assaulted and robbed of his wallet by an unknown man wearing a pitta mask along Jalan Enam near Dakota Crescent.

The victim reported that cash amounting to S$1,200 was stolen.

Through ground enquiries and with the aid of images from police cameras and closed-circuit television footage, officers from Bedok Police Division established the identity of the man and arrested him along Cassia Crescent the next day.

Footage provided by the police showed the perpetrator caught on police cameras before and after the robbery.

Despite the perpetrator having actively looked away from the police camera while walking back up the second floor staircase to a HDB flat home in Cassia Crescent, he was still identified via his side view.

The man was charged in court the following day with the offence of robbery with hurt.

He was convicted on July 14, 2020 with one count of robbery with hurt and sentenced to six years’ jail.

Attempted robberies in Bedok North

In another case on March 17, 2020 at about 2.10pm, the police received a report that an unknown man had tried to rob a woman along Bedok North Street 3.

The man fled after the victim shouted for help, and did not make away with anything.

Preliminary investigations revealed that the man is suspected to be involved in other similar cases of robbery in the vicinity.

The victims were reported to be unharmed.

With the aid of images from police cameras, officers from Bedok Police Division established the identity of the man and arrested him on the same day along Bedok North Road.

The man was charged in court on March 19, 2020 with attempted robbery

He was convicted on Sep. 14, 2021 and was sentenced to 18 months' jail.

Managing law and order incidents

The prominent deployment of PolCams in public spaces is an important crime-fighting strategy.

Law and order incident in Selegie.

The police also said police cameras aid them in sense-making capabilities on the ground and allow the police to be more responsive and proactive in managing law and order incidents.

There have been reported cases of fights involving multiple persons where responding officers were able to arrest the culprits swiftly upon their arrival at scene with the help of officers at the Police Operations Command Centre (POCC).

The POCC officers can observe the live PolCam footage prior to the arrival of the responding officers and will be able to provide useful information to the responding officers for such incidents.

Locating missing persons

Besides locating suspects in crimes, the police can help look for people who have gone missing.

One recent example in April 2020 saw the police successfully locate a vulnerable missing person reported in the northeastern part of Singapore.

The police officers were able to confirm the missing person’s last-seen attire at her place of residence via footage from police cameras.

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

Concurrently, the video analytics function also alerted the police of possible matches of persons with similar body attire.

Officers located the missing person and brought her into safe custody within three hours of the report being lodged.

Deterring crimes

Police cameras are also effective in deterring physical crimes, such as unlicensed moneylending-related harassment cases involving damage to property, housebreaking, motor vehicle thefts and theft from motor vehicles.

As a result of police cameras, unlicensed moneylending-related harassment cases involving damage to property at HDB estates decreased by 67.9 per cent from 1,745 cases in 2015 to 561 in 2020.

Housebreaking at HDB estates decreased by 56.8 per cent from 74 in 2015 to 32 in 2020.

Motor vehicle thefts at car parks decreased by 82.1 per cent from 251 in 2015 to 45 in 2020.

Theft from motor vehicles at car parks decreased by 65.4 per cent from 690 in 2015 to 239 in 2020.

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All photos via Singapore Police Force