Singapore: Surveillance system using video analytics wins award

Tracking criminals through surveillance cameras now works like a Google search.

Police investigators key in the general details of their targets, such as their attire, and video analytics software trawls through its archives to identify those caught on camera who may fit the bill.

Named PolCam 2.0, which was the technology that helped catch 15 wanted persons — some of whom had evaded the authorities for up to two years — between September and December last year.

“Besides attire, the system can detect anomalies like sudden crowding or people fighting, to help to expedite the search in playback of incidents,” said Deputy Assistant Commissioner Kenneth Nge, 51, the assistant director of the police’s Operations Systems Division.

“It has helped us to solve crimes faster, when in the past, we would need thousands of hours to run through the process manually.”

He and his teammate, Ms. Goh Siew Lee, the project’s program lead from Home Team Science and Technology Agency (HTX), have overseen the roll-out of some 10,500 PolCam 2.0 surveillance cameras in public areas as part of a goal to launch 200,000 units by 2030.

Ms. Goh said: “Every time we see a crime solved, we feel a sense of achievement. This award is a great encouragement to us.”

The project is one of six recipients of the Home Team Achievement Award, presented at the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) Minister’s Awards Presentation Ceremony on Oct. 28.

Law and Home Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam, who highlighted the project in his opening speech said, “This PolCam project has enhanced our sense-making capabilities, and reduced the time taken to search for wanted persons.”

He added that the authorities will use the technology to detect drug abusers and prison inmates on community supervision programs who have absconded.

A total of 194 awards were presented at the ceremony to recognize outstanding officers, teams and agencies for their work in operations and projects with MHA.

Central Narcotics Bureau intelligence officer Gerald Tong, 34, received the Operational Excellence award for leading an investigation into drug traffickers who allegedly used drones to smuggle drugs across the Singapore-Johor Baru channel in June 2020.

Some $44,000 of drugs were seized and four Singaporeans were arrested.

“[A drone] was not the traditional mode of operations for syndicates, so it was surprising to see how they tried to get around border security,” said Officer Tong. “Thanks to the team’s swift action and tenacity, it was a significant blow to the syndicate.”

Yellow Ribbon senior career specialist Tan Irene, 31, received the same award for her persistence in securing jobs for former offenders, despite being unable to meet them in person during last year’s circuit breaker.

Within two months, her team had moved the interview process online and, to her surprise, it was able to secure jobs for even more inmates due to the time saved and greater flexibility of working online.

Ms. Tan said: “I am always very happy for the ex-offenders when I see them paired with jobs, so that keeps me going.”