Plan to install over 200,000 CCTV cameras around S’pore delayed to mid-2030s: Police

The new cameras will be set up in commercial, recreational and entertainment districts with high footfall and crowd congregation, and at bus stops, bus interchanges and outside MRT stations.

Andrew Wong

Andrew Wong

The Straits Times


There are currently more than 90,000 police cameras islandwide. PHOTO: SINGAPORE POLICE FORCE/THE STRAITS TIMES

October 31, 2023

SINGAPORE – A woman who scalded her husband with boiling water in March was caught four hours after the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) alerted the police to the incident.

The woman, who was jailed for eight months for the crime, had fled Balam Road, off Circuit Road, and tried to escape to Indonesia via a ferry from the Singapore Cruise Centre.

She might have succeeded had she not been caught on police cameras (PolCams) in the area.

There are more than 90,000 of such cameras islandwide and the Singapore Police Force (SPF) plans to install more than 200,000 by the mid-2030s, including upgrading current ones with better features.

In October 2021, The Straits Times had quoted the police as saying the 200,000 PolCams would be installed by 2030.

But this has been delayed.

A police spokesman said: “The timeline for the implementation of more than 200,000 PolCams by 2030 has been adjusted due to delays caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.”

On the man being scalded, ST had reported in May that the couple married in 2019, but by December 2022, the marriage had soured as he felt she was too possessive.

He had wanted a divorce, but on March 23, she attacked him with boiling water from a flask.

The SCDF responded to the incident and notified the police.

Station Inspector Siti Shamsiah Mohamad Deshah, a watch officer at the Police Operations Command Centre, dispatched officers to the scene, and she trawled through PolCam footage to find the culprit.

She noticed a suspicious woman in footage from one of the cameras located at a nearby staircase landing.

The 28-year-old Indonesian woman had covered her features by wearing a black dress and niqab, a veil with a small slit for the eyes.

Station Insp Siti said: “With the camera footage, we identified her. We also verified this with the victim.”

The cameras helped Station Insp Siti to predict the woman’s possible escape routes using footage from 10 residential blocks.

Station Insp Siti followed her until she entered a supermarket.

She told officers to request closed-circuit television footage from the supermarket.

In the footage, she spotted the woman leaving in an orange outfit.

Station Insp Siti said: “The challenge was obviously identifying the suspect and, after knowing she had changed her attire, to disseminate this information to the other officers.”

Station Insp Siti also informed her colleagues at the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA), who alerted the police when they knew she was trying to leave Singapore.

It was a race against time, as the woman was already on board the ferry headed for Batam at 9.30am.

In fact, it left the ferry terminal, and she was headed for safety.

Station Insp Siti said: “After knowing she had already departed Singapore via the Singapore Cruise Centre on a ferry, we had to coordinate with the Police Coast Guard to intercept the ferry within Singapore territorial waters.”

The woman was arrested on the ferry by the coast guard team and brought back to Singapore.

On May 30, she was jailed for eight months for voluntarily causing hurt by dangerous means.

By the next decade, police officers like Station Insp Siti will be able to count on greater coverage from police cameras, after the SPF published a tender, on Monday, to increase the number of such cameras across the island.

The new cameras will be set up in commercial, recreational and entertainment districts with high footfall and crowd congregation, and at bus stops, bus interchanges and outside MRT stations.

Existing PolCams will be upgraded and have better camera resolution.

Since the camera installations began in 2012, they have helped solve some 7,500 cases, said the police on Friday.

They added that since 2012, the devices have helped to solve physical crimes, including unlicensed moneylending, damage to property, housebreaking and motor vehicle thefts.

Police told ST that unlicensed moneylending cases involving property damage in Housing Board estates fell by 76.9 per cent, from 1,745 cases in 2015 to 403 in 2022.

Housebreaking in HDB estates fell by 45.9 per cent, from 74 cases in 2015 to 40 in 2022. Theft from motor vehicles at carparks dropped by 72.5 per cent from 690 cases in 2015 to 190 last year.

Meanwhile, motor vehicle thefts at carparks fell by 72.9 per cent, from 251 cases in 2015 to 68 last year.

In June last year, the cameras were used to locate a man who had committed four loanshark harassment offences.

Senior Staff Sergeant Tay Jian Long from the Sengkang Neighbourhood Police Centre said he received a report where a man found his unit locked with a bicycle chain.

The culprit sent a video to the victim of himself locking up the gate, which proved to be crucial evidence for Senior Staff Sgt Tay.

He gathered camera footage from six different HDB blocks to identify the culprit.

He said: “Without the cameras, we wouldn’t know who the suspect was. In this case, he left a bicycle lock, which we could have sent for forensic (analysis), but it would have taken longer than usual because the results wouldn’t be immediate.”

The man was arrested within a week and sentenced to six months of reformative training.

A police spokesman said the cameras have helped them to deploy their resources more efficiently.

A public perception survey conducted by the police in 2021 revealed that 91 per cent of respondents supported having cameras in public areas to deter crime.

The spokesman added: “We are trying to make Singapore safer for everybody. The cameras are not meant to be any intrusion of privacy.”


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