February 2, 2014

The Lagos crime-bursting cameras!

The Lagos crime-bursting cameras!

By Olasunkanmi Akoni

The destroyed Lagos Close Circuit Television, CCTV

Closed-Circuit Television, CCTV, is the use of video cameras to transmit a signal to a specific place, limited set of monitors. It differs from broadcast television in that the signal is not openly transmitted, though it may employ point to point wireless links. CCTV is often used for surveillance in areas that may need monitoring such as banks, homes, casinos, airports, military installations and convenience stores.

The increasing use of CCTV in public places has caused a debate over public surveillance versus privacy. People can also buy consumer CCTV systems for personal, private or commercial use. In industrial plants, CCTV equipment may be used to observe parts of a process from a central control room; when, for example, the environment is not comfortable for human. CCTV systems may operate continuously or only as required to monitor a particular event.

With the use of quality equipments it can provide an interface both for governments and the public to view traffic congestion, traffic flow, density, average speed and incident detection. The main aim of this system will be to eradicate crime and possibly reduce manual traffic road supervision.

In the United Kingdom, UK, one of the advanced countries, the exact number of CCTV cameras was not known but a year 2002 working paper by Michael McCahill and Clive Norris of UrbanEye, based on a small sample in Putney High Street, estimated the number of surveillance cameras in private premises in London to be around 500,000 and the total number of cameras in the UK to be around 4,200,000.

According to their estimate the UK has one camera for every 14 people. The CCTV User Group estimated that there around 1.5 million CCTV cameras in city centres, stations, airports, major retail areas and so forth.

Last Monday, Governor Babatunde Fashola of Lagos State  led other members of Executive Council to a Public Security System demonstration of 27-screen video wall monitors on the use of 1,200 security cameras deployed in  the state by the Federal Government where the recorded scene of an armed robbery incident at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, MMIA,  was played back on the video wall to a spell boind audience comprising senior journalists, senior government officials, among others at the Command and Control Centre in Alausa, Lagos.

In the  video clip, unknown to the armed robbers, CCTV cameras installed in strategic places to monitor activities clearly captured the robbery operation.
The police were able to close up on the characters involved in the crime and went after them.

After some months of painstaking manhunt, the police arrested and paraded the  suspects before the public. The above scenario expounded the relevance of security cameras in monitoring, fighting and tracking down criminals activities in the society, especially, the most populous state in Nigeria, Lagos.

Before now, the Federal Government had deployed 1,000 CCTVs  in strategic places across the state to monitor crime. The state government  added  200  making a total of 1,200 security cameras.
At the inception of the initiative, there was a slight misunderstanding between the FG and the state on implementation. While the state wanted to go ahead with its own plan, following delay from the central authority, the FG stopped the former from going ahead with the programme due to logistics, among other reasons.

In 2009, the state government launched a pilot phase of CCTV initiative, solar powered, only in three locations in the state, namely; Falomo Bridge, Third Mainland Bridge and Eko Bridge.Before then, the Federal Government had approached the state government of its intention to control the installation and running of the project with Abuja and Lagos selected for the first phase

The FG,  under its National Public Security System programme, earmarked installation of a thousand cameras in Lagos for a start but 906 were installed then.
A demonstration of the screen-video monitors was carried out by the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Science and Technology, Mrs Nike Animashaun, using the Lagos airport scene as a case study.

Activities,  at the airport, Agege Motor Road and Oshodi at that moment could be monitored. The screen could zoom in on individuals,  numbers plate of vehicles  and anything. In her presentation of the live feeds from the various points in the state, she demonstrated how the cameras could zoom into particular objects and also take snapshots in addition to making 360 degrees turns to capture events simultaneously.

The Director, Computer Services in the Ministry of Science and Technology, Mr Debola Omoboya, in his presentation took the audience through the emergency telephony demo and how the state had been able to leverage on the emergency telephony infrastructure. He demonstrated four key services namely, the emergency telephony system, the video surveillance system, the video conferencing system and the e-police system which is based on the call centre located in the Command Centre.

Commissioner for Science and Technology, Adebiyi Mabadeje, at the event, said the state government had concluded arrangement to add another 1,000 security cameras to the existing 1,200 to  complement the efforts  to reduce crime.

According to him, security equipments  deployed  in the state include 1,000 plus surveillance cameras, 66 base-stations on CDMA technology, microwave links, normal telephony capacity, network with 3G data capabilities, existing camera while telephony infrastructure has the capacity to carry 100,000 subscribers.
According to the commissioner, video conferencing had also been deployed to enable quick decision making among security operative.

Speaking at the occasion, Governor Fashola  said  government was planning to expand existing camera and telephony infrastructure to support deployment of  additional cameras to cover the entire state to make it safe and secure. The governor was optimistic that with all these security equipments being put in place, there would be no hiding place for criminals in the state anymore.

He explained that the demonstration was a follow up to what was started  in 2008  when a pilot scheme was located in Lekki  with one camera. According to him, the demonstration was meant to show how far his administration had gone in spite of the many criticisms, cynicism and doubts cast on the project.

“Now we have moved from a zero camera state to about 1,200 camera state.  We are now in a position where we are now on one camera to about 10 sq kilometers, so we are far behind other cities like New York and London, where they range between 200 and 450 cameras per sq km. How did we do it? We have merged our cameras with the ones that the Federal Government installed, so we have taken all the feeds in here. We have moved from one small screen that you saw in Lekki to 27 screens that are collapsible in all forms either to one big wall, three screens and so on,” he explained.

According to him, what was being enjoyed now started with the Security Trust Fund which provided equipment, vehicles and stuff and was followed by street signage as it was discovered that while the police could move, they could not identify streets. “We followed that with house numbering, all of which are still work- in-progress and we realize that now that we could get police to move, but how do we call them? We moved from an 11 digit number to three digit number, 767 or 112 because we did not think people in trauma will remember an 11 digit number easily and how quickly you can contact the police or ambulance is the difference between what practitioners of disaster management call the golden hour.”

Fashola maintained that the work had not finished by any measure or distance, as there is a lot of room for improvement, which is what his administration would continue to seek.