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Crime-fighting through CCTVs

Rasheed Kappan March 26, 2017, DHNS 2:06 IST
The addition of 679 CCTV cameras by end of April will see the number skyrocket to 1,008. But that is impressive only in the CBD.

The addition of 679 CCTV cameras by end of April will see the number skyrocket to 1,008. But that is impressive only in the CBD.

Spot a criminal in his act and track him with that visual footprint. Packing Bengaluru’s Central Business District (CBD) streets with CCTVs, the city police are revving up their surveillance game. But how does that work in those dark, desolate roads on the city’s outskirts? Danger lurks in every corner for thousands of working women walking that last mile home. As darkness envelopes the streets, CCTVs, even if installed in big numbers, will hit a blind alley. The message is clear: Unless the city police, BBMP and Bescom work in tandem, safety will remain a weak point.

More cameras
The addition of 679 CCTV cameras by end of April will see the number skyrocket to 1,008. But that is impressive only in the CBD. The City Police Commissioner admits that without adequate streetlighting, reliability of the cameras will remain under a shade. Illuminating the streets is clearly the BBMP’s task. But maintaining the estimated 4.8 lakh street lamps in the Palike’s jurisdictional area of about 800 sq km is not an easy one. BBMP has now decided to replace its fluorescent lights with LED bulbs.

The Palike has earmarked Rs 4 crore for 5 lakh LED bulbs. However, the budget is silent on the issue of safety and security. Its own reliance on CCTVs is for a specific purpose: To identify garbage blackspots to track those dumping solid waste.

Poorly lit streets
Now, will this solve the safety problem? Not really. Maintenance is not the only issue as studies on street illumination in the city show. Fifty-one per cent of the city streets have lux levels (a measure of lighting) below the safety benchmark of 10 lux. This makes them unsafe for pedestrians, says the Street Quality Index, 2015.
Of the 3,075km of streets surveyed in the city, the average street-lighting was only 8 lux. Of the 1,431 km in the inner wards, 448 km constituting 31%, were not lit at all. In the 1,644 km of outer ward roads, this was even worse: Street illumination in 43% of the roads was way below the safety mark.

Involving RWAs
Good roads with well-lit pavements combined with foolproof police patrol could potentially boost the sense of security. Why not strengthen this further with high resolution CCTVs and by involving residential communities?

Although not by design, it was a CCTV fitted on a house and focused on the road that eventually helped the police track down the duo who molested a girl in Kammanahalli on New Year's eve. Security experts say a well-networked partnership between the local police and residents welfare associations (RWAs) can use technology to outsmart the criminals.

CCTVs explained
So, what kind of CCTVs are suited for homes? Experts say analog and digital/HD cameras are recommended for homes, apartments and smaller stores. For offices and large stores, IP cameras could be the option since these establishments are usually equipped with LAN infrastructure that could be adapted for CCTVs.

Low-resolution basic CCTVs do not offer good visibility when the distance is long. The best bet would be to fix these cameras at locations where people's faces could be captured at short range.

Ideally, these devices could be installed in front of lifts and staircases on the ground floor or basement since visitors and residents inevitably pass through these areas for entry and exit.
Security experts also suggest that the CCTV cameras be installed well above body height so that they are not easily accessible by hand. They insist that HD or IP cameras with minimum 1.3 MP or 2 MP resolution should be preferred over analog cameras which are now getting obsolete.

Tools of deterrence
Currently, the city has over 10,000 CCTV cameras installed by both private and government agencies. Of these, 179 monitor traffic violations and vehicular movements while 150 are installed for purely law and order purposes.

So far, the cameras have had a role in helping the police track down criminals after a crime is committed. But citizens want CCTVs to emerge as potent tools of deterrence. Can technology be used to let the cameras trigger an alarm every time a woman is attacked? Can it spark a response so quick that the mere sight of a camera will prevent an attack? That ought to be the next big thing.

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