Islamabad police say CCTV surveillance nets results

By Ama Nasir Jamal

Officials at the Police Integrated Command, Control and Communication (IC3) centre in Islamabad monitor surveillance cameras in January. [Amna Nasir Jamal]

Officials at the Police Integrated Command, Control and Communication (IC3) centre in Islamabad monitor surveillance cameras in January. [Amna Nasir Jamal]

ISLAMABAD -- Police in Islamabad have taken numerous steps during the past six months to make the capital city safe.

The Police Integrated Command, Control and Communication (IC3) Centre, also called the Safe City Project, aims to make the capital free of crime and to keep a vigilant eye on terrorists, said Tariq Masood Yasin, a former Islamabad Capital Territory inspector general of police.

Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan inaugurated IC3 last year, and the project came into effect in January.

Officials and technicians developed IC3 at the Police Line Headquarters in Islamabad. The National Database and Registration Authority, aided by an international telecom firm, is implementing it.

Keeping an eye on the city

As part of the Safe City Project, a team of 150 officials have learned to operate the IC3 system, police say.

Inside the control room, they monitor footage from 1,950 closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras installed throughout the city.

Workers installed the CCTV surveillance cameras to enable officers to keep a close watch on activities in high-risk and public areas, Yasin said.

"The cameras were installed to curb crime and instill confidence among the public," he told Pakistan Forward. "Through the security cameras, we will watch citizens' activities to counter terrorism and crimes."

"This is [evidence-based] policing, since it is hard to deploy police to every corner of the city, but with the help of the IC3 project, every spot will be watched," he said.

The cameras capture images at 32 megapixels, giving them the ability to pick out a single face from a gathering even at the distance of 30 metres, he said.

"Cameras in the city and town centres ... target specific places such as high-crime areas, the Red Zone, and all the entry and exit points, and are combined with other surveillance measures," he said.

"CCTV systems can be a valuable weapon in tackling crime in certain situations," he continued.

"The cameras are in use to monitor traffic flow, public meetings or demonstrations that may require additional police resources, or to determine if alarms have been activated unnecessarily, thus removing the need for a police response," he said.

Crime rate down

As a result of the Safe City Project, Islamabad has seen positive results, police data from January-June shows.

The performance of all police stations remained satisfactory and the crime rate has declined, according to police officials.

Police arrested 488 suspects accused of belonging to 184 gangs and also nabbed 3,507 wanted suspects.

Furthermore, police caught 157 suspects accused of involvement in murder and apprehended 57 suspected killers accused of involvement in 23 slayings.

Police arrested 513 suspected robbers accused of involvement in 285 cases and recovered looted items worth more than Rs. 55.3 million ($530,000).

Police also arrested 793 burglary suspects accused of involvement in 499 cases and recovered valuables worth Rs. 93.4 million ($891,000).

'Every second counts'

Local law enforcement faces increasing pressure to cope with both expected and unexpected security threats against citizens, Yasin said.

"The cameras fixed in markets, on roads, etc., are linked with the [IC3] centre in order to control crime through prompt action as well as [deployment of] Rapid Response Forces ... in case of any untoward incident," he said.

"Time is vital, and every second counts," he said. "Quick action by communications centre staff to dispatch responding units to an incident can be a matter of life and death."

"Intelligence officials in the IC3 can guide personnel though incident resolution workflow and minimise the number of actions required," he said.

"The project offers promising evidence for efforts to combine monitoring of CCTV cameras with directed patrols in an effort to ensure cameras are a pro-active policing tool," he said.

IC3 monitors can communicate with patrol cars dedicated to responding to incidents that CCTV monitors pick up, he said.

"Calls for service analyses suggested overall reductions in violence and social disorder," he said.

The CCTV cameras also can gather intelligence and monitor the behaviour of known offenders, such as shoplifters, in public places.

"Camera operators often come to know the faces of local offenders, and the cameras become a way to monitor their movements less intrusively than by deploying plainclothes police officers," Yasin said.

Reduced fear, more convictions

Islamabad residents say they feel safer with CCTV surveillance.

"One of the benefits after the installation of the CCTV cameras is a reduced fear of crime," said Akbar, owner of a guest house in Islamabad, who withheld his last name for security reasons.

"There is also positive economic impact when the public feels safer," he told Pakistan Forward.

"Aside from the potential for a CCTV system to have a role in crime prevention, it can still make a contribution in crime detection," said Islamabad lawyer Mohammad Altaf.

"There are numerous examples of CCTV tapes aiding in an offender's conviction," he told Pakistan Forward.

Camera footage can help identify potential witnesses who might not otherwise come forward, he said.

"CCTV camera evidence can be compelling, though image quality is a factor if CCTV images are used for identification," he said.

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