Karachi under growing video surveillance
KARACHI, June 21: As the city government allows law-enforcement and intelligence agencies access to its recently-established command and control system, which monitors signal-free corridors I and II, the police authorities have begun installing cameras separately, mainly in the ‘red zones’ of the metropolis, for video surveillance.
More than 150 cameras being installed in southern parts of the city are designed to be monitored through centres established in different areas by police personnel, sources in the department told Dawn.
“There is a plan to install a total of 156 cameras in zone south of the police’s organizational structure,” said a source. “Nearly 40-50 cameras have already been installed and made functional while the remaining ones are in the process of being fixed. Police authorities have actually marked the sensitive areas to make their job easier.”
He said the project, initiated a month ago with the high-ups’ approval, so far had covered a part of Sharea Faisal as some eight cameras had been installed around Hotel Metropole.
“A monitoring centre for such surveillance has been set up in the adjoining area, which is also monitored by the Central Police Office,” he added.
Similarly, he said, the plan proposed 22 cameras for I.I. Chundrigarh Road, which houses dozens of local and foreign business houses along with the country’s biggest capital market and the head offices of several banks.
“There are four centres which have been planned to monitor the activities recorded by the cameras on the road,” he added.
Similarly, some 16 surveillance cameras had been planned to be installed in the Kharadar area, 24 in Mithadar, 36 in Garden and 16 in the Electronics Market, as these parts of the city are considered vulnerable to street crimes.
The city government formally launched operations of its command and control system last week, which allows surveillance of two signal-free corridors –Sharea Faisal to Site and Surjani Town – with 54 cameras monitoring and recording movements of vehicles and people mainly in former districts East and West.
Though the Rs110 million project was initially aimed at monitoring and securing civic infrastructure, including flyovers, bridges and underpasses, it later allowed access to police and other agencies to help ease traffic congestion, identify criminals and prevent crimes.
However, the move leaves some areas left unchecked by the local authorities, including those that fall under the jurisdiction of the cantonment boards.
“There are still some areas where activities need to be monitored,” said the source. “The fresh plan may lead to such initiatives in other areas too.”
The officials said though the police department had proposed such initiatives, the project had materialized with the financial support of the community and people of certain areas.
“The area people and stakeholders supported the police in Saddar Town to install such cameras for 24-hour surveillance,” said Sultan Salahuddin Babar Khattak, the Capital City Police Officer (CCPO).
He said the project would ultimately benefit the people and businessmen of the areas and support for such initiatives reflects the people’s trust in the police department.
Apart from video surveillance of parts of the city, police sources said the authorities have also designed the same project for the security of Bilawal House, a residence of Asif Ali Zardari, co-chairman of the Pakistan People’s Party.
“Eight cameras have been installed around the house, with police mobiles patrolling the area 24 hours a day,” said a police official. “A monitoring centre has been set up in the area, which remains in touch with the patrolling mobiles.”
He said the project was decided upon after a firing incident outside Bilawal House sparked concerns, following which the police faced criticism. With the installation of the cameras, he added, the road leading to Bilawal House in the Clifton area from the Kharkar Chowrangi to Seaview beach has come under surveillance.
“Similarly, the roads on the back and parallel to the residence are also being monitored after this initiative,” he added.