ISLAMABAD: The $125 million Safe City Project inaugurated six years ago in the capital has so far failed to produce the desired results and achieve its objectives.

Police officials say neither a single incident/crime was prevented nor any criminal arrested with the help of the system. Besides, two scanners, which were part of the project, also disappeared without being traced.

Senior police officers told Dawn on condition of anonymity that the Safe City Project was made operational in June 2016 with 1,950 close circuit television (CCTV) cameras, but since then not a single incident or crime has been prevented through the system. Besides, no criminal, suspect or proclaimed offender was arrested through the surveillance of the cameras.

The project also failed to assist the police in chasing and arresting culprits who escaped after criminal activities, they added.

Since 2016, not a single criminal traced or arrested through surveillance system, police officers say

The project was launched in 2014 to counter terrorism and criminal activities by monitoring the movement of people through the security cameras. The Rs6 billion project was initially conceived in 2008 but could not be launched due to unavailability of funds till 2014.

Under the project, 130 LED screens would be installed at the control room for monitoring the CCTVs. These would have been equipped with modern and sophisticated software worth Rs250 million which was used only in USA and England at that time.

The CCTVs can capture an image of 32 mega pixels, giving them an ability to pick out a single ace from a gathering even at a distance of 30 metres. The project was equipped with a modern 4GLTE communication system to connect the control room with the then Rapid Response Unit, now Counter-Terrorism Department.

The aim and objective of the project was prevention of terrorism and crime and keep an eye on suspects and arrest them along wanted criminals through surveillance with the cameras besides chasing and arresting criminals escaping after conducting a crime, the officers said. But during a period of six years, it failed to get success in achieving the main objective even though there were 1,806 Interactive Video Systems (IVS) and 191 Automatic Number Plate Readers (ANPR) due to improper handling, administrative and other reasons.

Since January 1, 2016, the capital police registered 57,719 cases, including 7,628 crime against persons and 17,857 crime against property cases, including robbery and thefts, the officers said. The contribution of the Safe City Project to check the crime was not more than 15 per cent.

The project, however, assisted the police counter protests and demonstrations against the sitting government and identified its participants. Hence, it served the government instead of the citizens, said the officers.

Earlier, the police solved cases and arrested criminals by traditional policing which was replaced with the mobile tracking system or geo-fencing, so the Safe City does not make any difference, it only eased the investigators’ job.

There is no proper backup to save recordings of the CCTVs and only one backup is available with 60 days’ recording.

Most of the time, scores of the CCTVs remain nonoperational due to several reasons. During the last one month, about 300 CCTVs were repaired and made operational.

Now the CCTVs and software to run the control room of the Safe City Project have become outdated, the officers said. These CCTVs are not night- or rain-vision devices, as a result, there are many problems to get the desired results from the project.

Under the project, 1,997 cameras were installed in the capital but during the past six years the capital has expended and now the number of cameras covered only 40 per cent area.

There are only 70 screens installed at Safe City Project office and a team of 72 officials monitor the screens in different shifts.

Increasing the number of CCTVs from 1997 to 4,000 will make no difference as there are not much screens and staff available for monitoring, they added.

Two scanners were also bought as part of the Safe City Project and one of them was given to Karachi by the late Rehman Malik when he was holding the office of the interior minister. The other scanner disappeared, the officers added.

A spokesman for the police, when contacted, told Dawn that there were 1,997 CCTV cameras out of which 1,922 were operational.

He also confirmed that not a single incident/crime had been prevented or any criminal caught with the help of the Safe City Project so far.

However, 3,785 cases were solved since its operational, he said, adding that there was only one backup and recording of 60 days was available.

Replying to a question, he said only police had access to the CCTV cameras.

However, if required, other agencies and departments are given access through proper protocols. Citizens’ privacy is ensured through international rules on right of privacy and electronic data regulations act 2016, he added.

Published in Dawn, July 31st, 2022

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