The police appear to have given up on a high-tech monitoring and tracking system for its patrolling vehicles that was initiated by the city’s previous police chief, The Express Tribune has learnt.
In April, 17 Mujahid Squad vehicles were fitted with trackers and a spacious room was set up at the Rescue 15 Centre at Qila Gujjar Singh Police Lines, with a large LCD screen display indicating the location of the vehicles on a map of Lahore.
(Read: City police thinks of installing GPS in vehicles)
The purpose of the project, said police officials who were involved in its launching, was not just to improve coordination and emergency response time, but also to ensure that policemen were sticking to their beats and not stealing petrol.
On a visit to the room almost six weeks ago, this correspondent noticed that the LCD screen was switched off. Sub Inspector Tahir, who is in charge of the Rescue 15 control room, said that it had been turned off because of power fluctuations that could be damaging to the equipment and that it would only be off for a day.
On Tuesday, the screen was still switched off. Asked about it again, SI Tahir said he had been ordered to turn it off and that he was not authorised to talk about it further.
Previous capital city police officer (CCPO) Aslam Tareen, who is now Punjab deputy inspector general (Headquarters), came up with the idea of installing 17 tracking devices in patrolling vehicles to show his colleagues how useful they can be, said Muntazir Mehdi, who was superintendent of police (Mobiles) at the time and is currently SP for Iqbal Town.
A committee was later formed headed by Tareen and including the DIG (Operations), SSP (Operations), SSP (Investigation) and SP (Headquarters) to discuss the effectiveness of the device.
Asked about the status of the project, SSP (Admin) Tariq Abbas told The Express Tribune that the committee had decided that the trackers were very useful and should be installed in all patrolling vehicles.
However, he said, the devices were quite expensive to install and to run and that was why the project had most likely been put on the back burner.
SP Mehdi explained some of the benefits of the monitoring system. For one, it would make coordination much quicker and simpler. “Right now, officials have to contact individual beat cars to find their locations. With the GPS system, the location of all cars is available at the click of a mouse,” he said.
It would also improve response times to emergencies or Rescue 15 calls as the Control Room would be able to immediately identify which cars were closest and dispatch them to the scene. “They can also guide them about the most suitable routes,” he said.
Another benefit was that the Control Room would know if patrolling cars had strayed from their patrols or were stealing petrol. The SP said the policemen in patrolling cars that had been fitted with trackers acted more responsibly. “When you tell them to report to a crime scene they can’t then lie about their location and say they’re too far away,” he added.
Another police officer, on the condition of anonymity, explained how patrolling police steal from their fuel allowance. A cog-wheel device is attached to the speedometer and then turned so that the car’s mileage is shown to increase, all while the car is stationary. “With vehicles equipped with GPS devices, they wouldn’t be able to get away with that,” he said.
Tareen said that when he was still CCPO, a plan had been drawn up to install trackers in all police cars in phases, starting with all Mujahid Squad vehicles, followed by Headquarters vehicles, followed by the Operations wing and so on. “If they were committed to it they could have installed trackers in most if not all of their vehicles by now,” he added.
Current CCPO Ahmad Raza Tahir was unavailable for comment.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 3rd, 2011.