By Maxwell Pereira
the Good Friday blasts inside the historic Jama Masjid, there
were reports of Delhi Police discussing with mosque managements
the installation of CCTVs at entrances and premises of mosques
in Delhi. A majority of the capital’s important temples
have already been brought under CCTV cover, but not a single mosque
has this facility yet.
for policing are not new in Delhi. Introduced in the Traffic Department
in the late 70s, there’re in use for over 35 years now.
The initial five cameras installed atop tall buildings like Vikas
Minar, Delhi Police Headquarters, the NDMC tower, etc. helped
monitor busy traffic junctions over IP Marg, Tilak Marg and Bahadur
Shah Zafar Marg, the Parliament Street, and Kasturba Gandhi Marg/Connaught
Place near Statesman/Scindia House.
scheme remained stagnant though for the next thirty odd years,
when around the turn of the new millennium a burst of fresh initiative
by Delhi’s then Traffic managers saw the first of three
speed-check cum red-light-jumping detection cameras come on the
scene. Soon followed by extending the facility of camera surveillance
from traffic control exclusively, also to the crime control arena.
The areas to benefit with permanent camera fixtures were Parliament
Street where political and highly volatile and controversial public
agitations, demonstrations and related violence is the order of
the day; and the vulnerable banking and jewellery market areas
of Karol Bagh, where traders were motivated to partner Delhi Police
in the venture. Sadar Bazar and Chandni Chowk too followed suit
to benefit from camera surveillance.
the meantime the police modernisation scheme for upgrading of
police stations, saw CCTVs introduced in all police stations of
Delhi to facilitate monitoring by senior officials of crucial
public dealing areas like Duty Officers’ rooms, lock-ups,
interrogation rooms and such other pockets the monitoring of which
is considered crucial for management and administration.
Comparing this with practices elsewhere, one would be amazed to
know that in the UK there were more than 6000 speed cameras in
England and Wales alone by end 2004, while Delhi even now is crowing
with only seven such (four more by this year end)! While Delhi
was not too far behind England in introducing its first speed
camera in late 90s, in Japan I had seen them much before - as
early as in 1990 – six of them installed along the route
from Narita airport to Tokyo city.
The British Government justified their use of speed cameras with
an independent report that claimed the cameras were reducing casualty
rates in road accidents by 40 percent and saving 100 lives a year.
Commissioned by Ministers from academics at University College
London, the report studied more than half of the 42 police force
areas where cameras are used.
The study showed that in the three years to 2003 a 40 percent
reduction in the number of people killed or seriously injured,
a 33 percent drop in injury accidents, and a 35 percent cut in
the number of pedestrians killed or seriously injured. It found
average speeds at existing camera sites fell by around 7 percent
and the number of vehicles speeding at new camera sites dropped
by 71 percent. And that 79 percent of people surveyed supported
the use of cameras to reduce casualties. The installation of new
cameras is totally funded from speeding fines generated by the
In India we have been crying hoarse for years requesting the government
to plough back revenue raised through traffic fines into developing
road safety infrastructure and into road safety projects including
equipment. The Delhi Traffic Police alone enriches the national
exchequer each year with nearly 50crore rupees through traffic
fines realised, while the total annual budget allocation for the
traffic police which includes installation and maintenance of
traffic signals is under ten crores!
In the crime prevention and crime control area, cameras can definitely
help investigators identify suspects once a crime has been committed.
To what extent they can prevent crime is of course debatable.
A 2002 study in the UK concluded that surveillance cameras used
in 14 British cities had little or no impact on crime rates, just
as they didn't keep terrorists from bombing the London subway
system last year. But police agencies worldwide were impressed
when their British counterparts drew on 80,000 videotapes to identify
and retrace the routes of the subway system suicide bombers and
the suspects in a failed follow-up attack.
in the USA, the NYPD have deployed this month the first of 500
Security Cameras, launching their ambitious plan to combat street
crime and terrorism. Wireless video cameras now peer down from
lamp posts about 30 feet above the sidewalk. These 500 cameras
when placed throughout the city will cost $9 million. New York
has plans for hundreds more to safeguard Lower Manhattan and parts
of midtown with a surveillance "ring of steel" at an
additional cost of $81.5 million modelled after security measures
in London's financial district. The city already has about 1,000
cameras in the subways, with 2,100 scheduled to be in place by
2008. An additional 3,100 cameras monitor city housing projects.
in the US, Chicago spent roughly $5 million on a 2,000-camera
system. Homeland Security officials in Washington plan to spend
$9.8 million for surveillance cameras and sensors on a rail line
near the Capitol. And Philadelphia has increasingly relied on
privacy advocates react saying the camera plan needs more study
and safeguards to preserve privacy and guard against abuses like
racial profiling and voyeurism, police officials insist that law-abiding
New Yorkers have nothing to fear because the cameras will be restricted
to public areas. Supporting the police move, specialists feel
the measures make sense – as law enforcement needs to use
whatever tools they can to keep the city safe.
24, 2006: 950 words: Copy
Right © Maxwell Pereira: 3725 Sec-23, Gurgaon-122002. You
can interact with the author at http://
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