Eyes in sky will net crooks

By Li Yanhui Source:Global Times Published: 2011-9-22 0:41:00

A police officer shows Tongzhou district residents how to operate the two-way police call box in case of emergency Tuesday. One hundred call boxes are available to aid residents. Photo: Courtesy of Tongzhou police

Tongzhou district Tuesday launched a new system of hundreds of CCTV cameras and police call boxes on the streets to strengthen security monitoring, in a project that is called "Skynet."

Local residents seem to be unconcerned that the system will affect their rights to privacy. This is the first phase of planned blanket coverage of the district, and is the first of its type in the capital. 

"I think it's OK. The cameras can't see into my apartment, on the contrary, they make me feel safe," local resident Wang Kun told the Global Times.
"I don't think the cameras filming my life must mean infringing my privacy, maybe only if the video or pictures were published and they didn't tell me first," he said.

"If the cameras are installed in some private places, police should get people's permission," lawyer Zhang Zhiqiang with Beijing Yixing Law Firm told the Global Times, "but if the cameras are in public areas, there's no concern about residents' privacy," he said.

"There are no blind spots in this system," press department officer Wang Yiwen with Tongzhou District Public Security Bureau (PSB) told the Global Times.
"It's like an overhead network, cooperating with police patrols on the ground, to monitor crime and maintain social security," Wang said.

The Chinese name for the project is "Tianwang," literally "Skynet."

The 100 two-way call boxes and 678 closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras, added to 70 already existing cameras, will monitor public areas, major streets, hospitals, schools, transportation hubs and residential compounds.

Each of the 360-degree CCTV cameras can provide clear pictures of car license plates and people's faces, up to a distance of 200 meters.

Information is monitored by the district emergency police command center, local police stations and government offices.

If residents see a crime being committed, they can simply go to one of the roadside boxes, press a red button, and they will be directly connected via video feed to the 110 police command center. 

Two pedicab drivers said they think  the call boxes are useful, and people often used the box at Luhe Hospital.

"I don't do anything bad. The cameras can watch me, I don't care about privacy," said a resident, surnamed Ge.

Several other locals echoed that the cameras would not affect their private lives. Another resident, surnamed Wang, said he was not worried.

"It's impossible that the camera is always watching me, so it really doesn't matter," he remarked.

Tongzhou has employed 202 staff from Beijing Fullsee Electronic Company, a security monitoring company in China, to monitor the information from each camera, on average every 15 minutes around the clock. Staff must sign contracts so they do not divulge any secrets or personal information they may learn.

Police hope the videos will prove useful in providing evidence to solve crimes.

The video recorded will be stored safely by staff, so that it can used if necessary. The team from Fullsee will also be responsible for maintenance of the machines, said officer Wang.

The police monitoring system has  already helped to tackle nine emergencies, been used 120 times to clear out unlicensed vendors, used for 55 accidents, provided 103 clues for crimes and served the residents 69 times in the past month, said the Tongzhou PSB press release.

The first phase cost 120 million yuan ($18.8 million). Tongzhou plans to install 1,654 more cameras to cover the entire 155-square-kilometer district.
"Beijing is struggling to create an international city, but it must be a safe city in the first place," Wang said.

But he denied the monitoring system was related to the upcoming October 1 National Day.

"It's a long-term project," he said.

Posted in: Society, Metro Beijing

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