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Janice Heng
Wednesday, Oct 22, 2014

Singapore

Watchful eyes in every block by end-2016

The Straits Times | Janice Heng | Wednesday, Oct 22, 2014

A CCTV camera being installed at a block in Jalan Bukit Merah. Since May 2012, 18,000 police cameras have been installed in 3,300 HDB blocks and multi-storey carparks.

THE police will have eyes in every Housing Board block by the end of 2016, with the number of CCTV cameras having surged in the last two years.

But rather than sparking fears of a "Big Brother" society, the increased surveillance has generally been welcomed, MPs and town councils say. Residents moving into newly completed flats have even asked why cameras have not yet been installed.

Nee Soon GRC MP Lee Bee Wah said: "When residents move in and CCTV is not there, then they worry about security."

Since May 2012, 18,000 police cameras have been installed in 3,300 HDB blocks and multi-storey carparks under the Community Policing System.

All of Singapore's 10,000 HDB blocks and multi-storey carparks will have them by the end of 2016.

The proliferation of police cameras has been opposed by civil liberties groups elsewhere. But residents in Singapore seem unfazed.

Holland-Bukit Panjang Town Council spokesman Dorothy Cheung said: "Generally, our residents are receptive towards this implementation as it will enhance security in their heartland."

Police said that in the last two years, footage from these cameras has helped to solve more than 200 crimes, with investigative leads obtained in more than 450 cases.

An East Coast Town Council spokesman said some residents have even sought permission to install their own cameras outside their flats.

Mountbatten MP Lim Biow Chuan said some people have complained that cameras were not installed after crimes were committed in their estates. "Then we must explain that it's coming and we have to wait," he said.

If the issue of privacy is raised, it is usually when neighbours quarrel and install CCTV cameras to monitor each other, he added. "Other than that, nobody really makes a fuss about it."

Ms Lee noted that privacy is not a great worry as the police cameras face areas such as lift lobbies and ground-floor stairwells, not flats themselves.

Tuition teacher Tan Choon Kwan, 49, said: "I really appreciate the fact that they have CCTV cameras." The MacPherson resident would like even more at staircase landings, "if possible, every floor". While she admitted that privacy is sometimes a concern, she added: "Safety versus privacy, I'd go for safety any time."

National University of Singapore sociologist Daniel Goh believes Singaporeans are no more open to surveillance than citizens elsewhere. But Singapore lacks "an entrenched political culture emphasising civil liberties and citizen rights". Another possible reason is that Singaporeans see public spaces as being under government authority rather than belonging to the public "as a collective".

janiceh@sph.com.sg


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