Install CCTV cameras in crime-prone areas

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Benedict Lopez believes that such cameras can play an important role in enhancing safety and security in these areas.

During a recent Sunday walk, at around 6pm, I witnessed a crime taking place.

Two men with helmets on a motorcycle tried to rob a young woman, a foreigner, of her mobile phone and handbag.

Witnessing the crime from the TM building, located on the opposite side along Lorong Maarof, Bangsar Park, I shouted at the top of voice.

Perhaps seeing me taking out my mobile phone to take a photo, they made a quick dash and turned into Jalan Maarof and sped off.

As my mobile was locked, I did not have sufficient time to take a photo.

The poor woman was traumatised and distressed. Two police personnel arrived shortly and spoke to the lady but she was not interested in lodging a report.

This incident made me ponder. I believe the work of the police would have been much easier in apprehending the criminals if there were CCTV cameras installed in the vicinity.

The advantages of public surveillance technology proved useful for investigators in identifying and apprehending the two suspects in the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013, after examining the video images captured by the city’s cameras.

Subsequently, public officials in the US spoke of the important function such cameras play daily in ensuring safety in our streets and residential areas and during important events.

London reported a lower crime rates since the introduction of CCTV cameras. But it is a subjective matter as the correlation between the installation of these cameras and the overall reduction in crime could not be ascertained.

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Statistics and surveys carried out by researchers and law enforcement officers have found that in general CCTV cameras are effective in preventing certain types of crime in London and other parts of the UK.

Chennai in India is at the focal point when it comes to public funding for CCTVs. The city’s inhabitants have realised the tangible benefits of such cameras, and they are in the forefront in installing them as they serve a dual purpose: a deterrent for crime and assistance to the police in keeping their city a safer place.

Based on police statistics, the crime rate in Chennai has plunged by 30% since the installation of CCTV cameras. Chain snatching statistics in Chennai dropped from 792 in 2012 to 538 reported cases in 2018. Similarly, other crimes like robberies have also shown a similar trend.

CCTV cameras are also an economical way to prevent and reduce crime. It has been observed that CCTV cameras are an effective way to bring down crime rates in countries like Singapore and South Korea.

Of course, some of the passionate advocates of civil liberties would construe CCTV cameras as an invasion of privacy and an infringement of civil liberties.

But I feel, from a safety and security perspective, the pros outweigh the cons in installing CCTV cameras. I believe many citizens would welcome such safety measures on condition these cameras avoid viewing private property such as yards and apartment windows.

That said, many governments have abused these cameras to persecute their political opponents. Some companies in certain countries have worked in cahoots with these repressive regimes to supply these surveillance cameras to spy on dissidents, schools, universities, individuals and organisations deemed a threat, often under the guise of national security.

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CCTV cameras and civil liberties can be reconciled if cameras are mounted and employed responsibly. Laws should be enacted to safeguard civil liberties and privacy while not compromising on the safety and security of the majority of citizens. In addition, officials should be trained to be painstakingly competent on these policies, and they must be made answerable for any transgressions.

Police work would be further enhanced in combating crime with the assistance of CCTV cameras. CCTV cameras will also assist prosecutors in court as video footage would complement the work of the police as evidence in court.

Despite the real potential for abuse, CCTV cameras can enhance safety and security in society. I hope the government will allocate funds to install CCTV cameras in crime-prone areas in the country.

The safety and security of our citizens and foreigners should be of paramount importance – though safeguards should be in place to ensure that civil liberties and the right to privacy are not violated.

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Benedict Lopez
Benedict Lopez was director of the Malaysian Investment Development Authority in Stockholm and economics counsellor at the Malaysian embassy there in 2010-2014. During the course of his work, he covered all five Nordic countries. An eternal optimist and now an Aliran member, he believes Malaysia can provide its citizens with the same benefits and privileges found in the Nordic countries - not a far-fetched dream but one that he hopes will be realised in his lifetime.

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Khong Kah Yeong
Khong Kah Yeong

Will this (installation of CCTV) be the thin edge of the wedge towards a “Big Brother is watching” state??