LAHORE -- Punjab Police are cracking down on terrorism and other crimes with the implementation of a state-of-the-art Police Integrated Command, Control and Communication Centre (IC3).
The first phase of the system saw the installation of more than 3,000 closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras throughout Lahore's main thoroughfares, markets and other heavily populated public spaces.
Eventually, 8,000 CCTV cameras placed at strategic locations in the city will link directly to IC3 at the Punjab Safe City Authority’s headquarters in Qurban Lines, Lahore, according to news reports.
The project is expected to end in May 2017 at a cost of Rs 12 billion (US $114.5m).
"Timely and effective measures have been taken under the National Action Plan [NAP] against terrorism and extremism, and encouraging results are being witnessed," Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif said October 11 during the IC3 inauguration ceremony in Lahore.
The Pakistani government launched the counter-terrorism NAP shortly after a terrorist massacre of more than 140 children and teachers in Peshawar in December 2014.
Under the project, all police stations of Lahore will be integrated with the centre, which will help police keep a watchful eye on criminal elements and miscreants, he said.
"This centre will not only result in substantial improvement in the law-and-order situation but in the monitoring of streets and bazaars through digital technology," Shahbaz said.
Similar systems have proved successful in global capitals like London and Istanbul, he said.
"Initially, 3,000 modern digital cameras were installed in the city with a direct link with IC3," Shahbaz said. "The centre is completely independent and autonomous and is operated in an organised and scientific manner."
"The cameras already fixed in markets, bazaars and shops will be linked with the centre in order to control crime through prompt action [enabling police] to reach the scene in case of any untoward incident," Shahbaz said.
Success during Muharram
The system was inaugurated and operational on the first day of Ashura, and the Punjab Information Technology Board (PITB) deployed its best personnel to IC3 to monitor all activities including majalis (Muharram gatherings) and processions in 11 districts of Punjab.
IC3 will help Punjab Police fight crime and protect citizens, PITC Chairman Umar Saif said.
"It will help the government of Punjab to achieve its stated aim of improving the security situation in Punjab," he told Pakistan Forward.
During Muharram, police efficiently monitored the live feed from more than 245 cameras and kept the provincial law minister, chief secretary, home secretary and inspector-general of police well informed, he said.
"The initiative is of vital importance for controlling crime, and this project will also begin in Rawalpindi, Multan, Gujranwala and Faisalabad under a phased programme," he said.
The aim of the IC3 programme is to improve Punjab Police's operational efficiency through modern technology that will enable police to modernise working practices and operating concepts, according to the PITB.
"In progressing towards greater efficiencies, one of the aims of IC3 is to bring together various elements of the Punjab Police to work as a more unified team," Saif said.
'Every second counts' in fighting crime
"Time is vital, and every second counts," said PITB Director Sajid Latif. "Quick action by communications centre staff to dispatch responding units to an incident can be a matter of life and death."
"Intelligence in the command and control centre can guide personnel though incident resolution workflow and minimise the number of actions required," he told Pakistan Forward.
Law enforcement in Punjab faces a growing need to cope with both expected and unexpected security threats against citizens, Punjab Deputy Inspector General (DIG) of Police Operations Haider Ashraf said.
Introducing IC3 will not fundamentally alter the role of the police, but they expect to see greater efficiency as a result, he told Pakistan Forward.
"Through the establishment of the Punjab IC3, it is envisaged that roughly 20% of crimes such as rioting and destruction of public and private property, 28 to 30% of vehicular crime, and 15 to 20% of crimes against property such as house burglary, robbery and street crime will be thwarted in the first five years of operation," Ashraf said.