Technology keeps an eye on residents
From IAN STEWART
THE homes of Singaporeans may become the only place where they are free from the prying lenses of video cameras if a current enthusiasm for electronic surveillance in housing estates continues.
As a result of the installation of cameras by the Housing Development Board, local authorities and residents' committees, electronic eyes are monitoring the activities of residents around the clock.
Officials say the cameras have been successful in dealing with littering and vandalism.
The latest success story comes from a housing block at Ang Mo Kio, where a communal area, called Interaction Corner, has been under 24-hour surveillance for six months. The residents' committee said that since three cameras were installed, more than a dozen litterbugs and vandals had been captured on tape.
The majority of the offenders were residents of the block, who were let off with a warning.
However, a litterbug who was also an underage smoker was handed over to the police.
The residents' committee chairman, Lim Ser Chai, said the cameras were installed after some artificial plants were stolen. The committee wanted to prevent money spent on new furniture and decorations ''from going down the drain''.
Last year, the Housing Board installed closed-circuit cameras in the lifts one block of flats and linked them to tenants' television sets, so they could monitor the comings and goings of co-tenants and visitors.
Residents say that when they tire of commercial television they can switch to the closed circuit channel to see what's happening in the lifts. One resident said he had watched couples kissing and cuddling.
The board has begun fitting cameras in another 20 lifts and may install the system Singapore-wide.
Residents of a 16-storey block at Tanjong Pagar have two electronic eyes trained on their windows 24 hours a day.
Closed-circuit television cameras were placed on a nearby hill slope and pointed at the block to catch anyone throwing litter out of their apartments.
If the Tanjong Pagar surveillance experiment is successful, cameras will be set up in similar fashion at other Housing Development Board estates.