ISLAMABAD: When the Safe City Project was inaugurated around two years ago, it was heralded as ‘a new era’ for the capital where it would be made ‘crime free’ and a model for the rest of the country. But the project seems to have suffered from partial blindness.
Over 1,800 high-end surveillance cameras had been installed across the capital and a sophisticated command and control centre had been set up in Sector H-11 under police supervision. The project gave officers ‘eyes’ at all the entry and exit points of the capital, major thoroughfares, intersections and markets in the city.
However, two years down the line, the project seems to be stuttering and is yet to be fully integrated into routine policing.
Repair and maintenance of the project has often been neglected, as evidenced by the lack of footage in a number of high-profile cases. These cameras were found, or at least declared so by the police, to be dysfunctional.
Some high-profile cases where officers had banked on helping provide key clues but only offered static were the case when flags of the terrorist group Da’esh appeared along the Islamabad Expressway on September 24, 2016.
Moreover, the cameras were also blind when a journalist was attacked by unidentified motorbike riders in Sector G-7/1 on October 10, 2017.
Recently, when another journalist was allegedly intercepted and beaten up by four gunmen near Koral Chowk on January 10, 2018, officers said Safe City cameras installed nearby were dysfunctional at the time.
“All the cameras on the Expressway beyond Faizabad are dysfunctional. Not a single camera is working,” a police officer told The Express Tribune while requesting not to be named since he was not authorized to speak to the media.
Police blame construction work along the Expressway and the Kashmir Highway as the reason for the surveillance network’s failure.
On the other hand, cops insist that the cameras have helped trace hundreds of cases since the project first went online two years ago.
Former SSP-Operations Sajid Kiani had said that the Safe City system had helped solve 608 cases in the capital last year.
Inspector General Police Sultan Azam Temuri says that since he returned to the capital last December, as many as 200 were traced and solved.
“Around 1,800 cameras are installed under the Safe City Project,” IGP Temuri said during a news conference earlier in the week, adding that work on fixing dysfunctional cameras has begun.
“The system will also be expanded to more areas,” he promised as he pointed to the cases which were solved with the help of the Safe City Project.
When asked, incumbent SSP-Operations Najeebur Rehman Bugvi disclosed that around 300 cameras were currently dysfunctional.
Most of these dysfunctional cameras, he said, were from the places where construction work, such as that on the extension of the metro bus project along Kashmir Highway, was underway.
Apart from technical glitches, the billion-rupee project has also suffered due from a shortage of manpower.
Earlier this year Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal had conceded that the lack of human resource in the control room had reduced the project to a mere recording system.
The minister has promised to ensure the provision of adequate resources to strengthen and expand the project. Curiously, however, this promise was not followed by a definitive timeline to do so.
More recently, the police were told to install closed-circuit television cameras at the site of the Pakistan Day parade and other adjoining thoroughfares to ensure stringent security for the premier event.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 8th, 2018.