The police will soon be able to keep track of the law and order situation across principle areas in the city though an integrated surveillance network, complete with 1,360 cameras and hundreds of hours of recorded footage. This will hopefully bring down the number of killings and robberies on the streets.
On Monday, Citizens-Police Liaison Committee (CPLC) chief Ahmed Chinoy said that various departments, including the police, Karachi Metropolitan Corporation (KMC), Defence Housing Authority (DHA) and other private organisations, such as banks, already have their own surveillance cameras. Authorities are now trying to integrate the command and control centres of the police and the KMC to make digital monitoring effective, he said.
Governor Ishratul Ebad had advised officials to link surveillance systems used by the police with those of the KMC, the Karachi Port Trust, Port Qasim and the Pakistan Steel Mills during a meeting on Sunday.
“Karachi is a very big city and it is impossible to [post law enforcers at] every contentious point. It is also not possible to install a camera in every other street. But linking [the system] between police and the KMC will help,” said Chinoy.
President Asif Ali Zardari recently inaugurated the first phase of the Karachi Video Surveillance System, which added 950 cameras to police’s existing network of 250 cameras at a cost of Rs650 million. KMC’s command and control centre in Civic Centre has access to its 160 cameras and it covers three corridors: the route that connects Karsaz with SITE, by passing National Stadium, Hassan Square, Liaquatabad Underpass and Nazimabad Underpass. The second route starts from Drigh Road and covers Rashid Minhas Road and onto Sohrab Goth. The last network monitors activities along MA Jinnah Road.
The CPLC chief hoped that the enhanced video surveillance system will control political and sectarian killings in the city, in addition to preventing muggings. Nevertheless, the surveillance network has blind spots as it does not cover thousands of kilometres of narrow streets and lanes, where most robberies reportedly occur. Experts say that there is need for at least 10,000 security cameras. KMC plans to spend nearly Rs400 million to set up another 200 surveillance cameras along the city’s main arteries, bringing the total number of such devices under its control to over 360.
Not an easy job
While the additional 200 cameras may be a blessing for the city’s residents if they help law enforcers control criminal activities, they might not be anything but a curse for the half dozen or staff members at KMC’s video surveillance centre. These officials sit in groups to stare at multiple computer screens for eight hours at a time.
“It seems like a convenient job but one needs a lot of patience to survive after the first week here,” observes Asad Hashmi, a senior official at the metropolitan corporation’s command and control centre. “We joke among ourselves and take turns to go freshen up so that we’re able to keep our concentration.”
Hashmi and his colleagues are responsible for monitoring 14 large screens that show live feeds from 126 cameras at a time. “It is needless to say that we need more manpower if more cameras are added to the system,” says Hashmi.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 4th, 2012
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