The police have come to DEPEND ON EVIDENCE from camera footage, even as it is used for everyday law and order

The decisive factor that aided investigations in the case of Ambur MLA Aslam Basha’s claims of a murderous attack on him, and the killing of Subbiah, a doctor, in R.A. Puram, last year, was the footage from closed-circuit television (CCTV) camera.

CCTVs have become extremely crucial in crime investigation. Following directions from the police, and taking into account safety, most business establishments and some apartment complexes in the city have installed sophisticated CCTV cameras with a recording database, often running to 90 days. Some of the equipments feature night vision too.

In the recent Siruseri techie murder case, the special investigation team of the CB-CID stumbled upon footage from an ATM kiosk near the victim’s office and realised her missing credit card had been used by a masked man who attempted to withdraw money. The man was later identified as a key suspect in the murder.

In some cases, to establish the identity of a suspect captured on CCTV camera, the footage is sent for face recognition to a high-tech cyber lab.

However, some culprits have found ways to cheat the camera. In January, a masked thief who struck at a pawn shop on Paper Mills Road in Perambur disconnected four CCTV cameras before getting down to work. Luckily, he failed to notice another camera that managed to record, if only for a while, the theft. He decamped with gold jewellery worth nearly Rs. 1 crore. The case is still under investigation.

The latest fumble was the case of the kidnapping of a newborn from the labour ward at Government Kilpauk Medical College Hospital on March 1. Police probe revealed the CCTV network in the ward had no hard disk, thereby rendering the equipment ineffective.

Remember those scenes in Hollywood spy movies where a target is tracked using CCTV cameras? Similarly, you too are being watched by the Chennai city police as you waltz across the city.

There are around 1,500 CCTV cameras set up across the city and the footage is monitored on huge television screens in the city police commissioner’s room and the control room.

“There are around 50 cameras each in localities like Purasawalkam and NSC Bose Road. Besides, we have instructed schools to install cameras facing the road, and also mandated CCTVs outside petrol bunks,” said a senior police officer.

Though these cameras are supposed to assist the police in tackling crime and handling law-and-order cases, some of them go blank due to poor maintenance. “It is seldom repaired soon. So, if something untoward happens on a stretch where the CCTV camera is not working, the police have to go looking for footage from cameras installed outside commercial or residential buildings,” said another police officer.

Residents, however, feel no technology can make up for lack of police presence. “Instead of wasting manpower, especially women constables, by engaging them in bandobast duty, the police can deploy them in localities where chain snatchings are often reported,” said a resident of Anna Nagar.

More In: Chennai | Columns