Sharjah: A mystery corpse lying in a building. Car thefts in parking lots. Break-ins at shops and commercial establishments. Money going missing from a resident. Kids threatened by predators. These are some of the many cases that Sharjah Police have resolved over the years, thanks to the CCTV footage provided by surveillance cameras installed in strategic places in the emirate.
It shows the key role played by tech in helping secure the community.
Col. Nasser Bin Afsan, director of electronic services department at Sharjah Police, told Gulf News: “Security cameras play an important role in deterring and limiting crimes. Sharjah Police employ public video surveillance as a primary tool to monitor suspicious movements to prevent crime, both in the private and public sectors.”
65,799Number of CCTV surveillance cameras in the emirate of Sharjah
Sharjah Police have completed the installation of 65,799 high-tech CCTV surveillance cameras in the emirate.
Col. Bin Afsan said that the security control system project to install surveillance cameras around Sharjah is now 85 per cent complete.
Building up CCTV network
He pointed out that the total number of surveillance cameras includes analytical surveillance cameras, cameras that can detect vehicle license plates and early warning systems.
They have been installed in prime locations, on public roads, public establishments and vital places.
Col. Bin Afsan said the project, which began with 500 cameras in December 2017, had come a long way with 21,540 cameras being added to the security project in the last six months alone.
Since January 2020 to the end of 2022, Police Cameras caught 13,871 incidents including 2,482 negative incidents, such as begging, illegal vendor operations. They also caught 10,913 traffic violations (speed, lane discipline and others). They also help police to solve circumstances of 476 crimes.
In 2022, such cameras caught 1,150 traffic violations, helped police solve 218 crimes and 48 negative incidents were caught.
Meanwhile, up to 673,000 traffic violations — including flouting of seat belt and use of mobile phones rules — were caught on camera between January 1, 2020, and September 30, 2021.
In one incident, police cameras caught a driver commit traffic violations for a month on a Sharjah road. When the driver was summoned and notified of his violation, he denied doing it, the official said.
The video footage taken from the cameras helped prove his lie.
The intention of the police is not to impose fines on erring drivers, Col Bin Afsan said. Rather, it is educate them about traffic rules and correct their behaviour on the roads.
He said: “If no one is aware of the crime until after it has been committed, surveillance footage comes in as a crucial piece of evidence during a police investigation. Surveillance cameras have and will always provide a solution to many crimes.”
With security cameras, police don’t have to operate on guesswork; they can use the footage to see that the investigation is headed in the right direction.
Cameras helped trace some criminals who tried to hide their faces behind masks. Hit-and-run crimes and other acts of vandalism are also common inside parking lots, he said.
A good surveillance monitor can easily capture the faces of the suspects or the license plates of their vehicles.
For example, by reviewing security camera footage, police might be able to verify whether a suspect was in a given area at a particular time and what direction they were heading.
That information can help the course of the investigation and give officers solid clues to work on. “With security cameras, police don’t have to operate on guesswork; they can use the footage to see that the investigation is headed in the right direction.”
He said security cameras are invaluable to police forces when they are trying to determine the accuracy of other types of evidence.
If they have a statement from a witness in the area of the crime that includes a suspect’s description, investigators can cross-refer to the security cameras to verify whether someone matching that description was in the vicinity of the crime at the time.
There had been numerous cases where cameras have immensely helped in police work, the official added. One case in point was a motorist who ran over a man and escaped.
The police, however, were able to track the movement of the vehicle and found that the driver used a fake number plate which he threw away after the crime.
When the driver initially denied he had used the fake plate number, the camera footage was shown to him, resulting in his confession.
In another case, a man who molested a 14-year-old girl was caught, thanks to a surveillance camera. Similarly, another man who would molest an eight-year-old boy in a building under construction was also arrested with the help of CCTV footage.
In yet another case, a motorist claimed his car was burnt suddenly and he did not know how it happened. By reviewing CCTV footage, police found the motorist pour petrol on his vehicle and setting it intentionally on fire to claim insurance.
Moreover, several stolen cars were also recovered. In one incident, police received a call about a stolen vehicle coming from Abu Dhabi. When the car entered Sharjah, police cameras spotted it, tracked its movement and arrested the driver.
What the law says on cameras
The CID team periodically visits buildings to inspect camera installations and their activation, he added.
Executive Council Resolution No. 28 of 2015 regarding the security of vital facilities stipulates the imposition of a fine ranging from Dh5,000 to Dh15,000 on establishments that do not comply with the rules and may reach closure or suspension of licence if deemed necessary.
673,000: Number of traffic violations concerning seat belts and use of mobile phone caught on camera between January 1, 2020 and September 30, 2021.
2,482: Negative incidents, including begging, illegal vendor operations, identified via CCTV.
10,913: Number of traffic violations caught on camera.
476: Sensitive and criminal cases, including harassment, solved with the help of CCTVs.
813: Number of residential buildings, commercial and industrial establishments covered by 30,950 CCTVs, till date.
200: Number of companies licensed by Sharjah Police to provide installation of camera services