Footage from police cameras across the island have helped to crack more than 1,900 criminal cases since their introduction five years ago.
And more criminals are likely to be caught on camera in the next few years, with 11,000 more police cameras (PolCams) being installed in 2,500 locations. The PolCams will be placed in public areas with high foot traffic like town centres, hawker centres and linked walkways.
The first wave of cameras, PolCam 1.0, saw 65,000 cameras installed in housing neighbourhoods from 2012.
From these, the police retrieved and reviewed around 3,800 pieces of video footage to help solve 1,900 cases, said a police spokesman in response to queries by The New Paper.
Camera footage was integral in cases such as theft, outrage of modesty and unlicensed moneylending harassment, he said.
The second wave, PolCams 2.0, which were introduced from June last year, are equipped with “pan-tilt-zoom functions and 360-degree field-of-view that are able to detect anomalous events”, the spokesman added.
The cameras also have video analytics capabilities, such as facial recognition.
During his National Day Rally speech recently, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong called for better technology and security surveillance systems.
Referring to the Little India riots in 2013, he said: “We were caught a little flat-footed. There were too few CCTV cameras… We had to rely on footage posted by the public on social media.”
Mr Lee added that while there are more CCTV cameras in public now, there is a need to gather better data and put this information to more effective use.
Mr Yaniv Peretz, programme director of Certified Counter Terrorism Practitioner, underscored the importance of using camera data proactively, rather than in a reactive way.
New CCTV technologies such as video analytics and facial recognition will help the authorities to detect “red flag patterns” and take necessary action, he said.
What makes camera footage an important tool in combating terror is its efficiency in exposing threats, National University of Singapore sociologist Tan Ern Ser told TNP.
“Surveillance videos can capture the process of a terror incident and key evidence, such as the perpetrators and weapons used, and even the routes taken, as well as the extent of destruction and harm to persons and properties,” he said.
“The incidents can be captured in real time, thereby enabling quick responses and more targeted arrests, in addition to assisting injured victims.”
Criminal lawyer Rajan Supramaniam mentioned such high-profile cases as the couple who abused an elderly man in a Toa Payoh hawker centre in April and the armed robbery at a Western Union outlet last month in Ubi where video footage played an integral role in investigations.
He said: “Camera footage cannot be disputed, it’s objective evidence and it is a visual tool that can capture the essence of an incident.It can also be viewed over and over again.”
The presence of cameras can also serve as a deterrence to crime, he added.
Mr Bryan Tan, a partner at law firm Pinsent Masons MPillay, said police cameras bring the authorities closer to the crime scene.
“You cannot expect every installed camera to become a crime solver, but these cameras allow law enforcement to almost have front-row seats to a crime in progress,” he said.