Sharjah: A mystery corpse lying in a cupboard in the reception of a building, car thefts in parking lots, break-ins at shops and commercial establishments, money going missing from wallets at home and kids threetened 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 different places.
Speaking to Gulf News in an exclusive interview, Lieutenant Colonel Mohammad Hassen, head of the criminal and investigation department at Sharjah Police, said: “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.”
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.”
Corpse in a cupboard
Highlighting several cases in which cameras played an important role, he said Sharjah Police solved the mystery of a corpse found in cupboard that was left in the reception area of a building located in Al Nahda.
The building’s watchman contacted Sharjah Police on 999, notifying them of a suspicious cupboard, following which the CID team rushed to the building.
Swinging into action, the police conducted a thorough investigation. As part of the probe, the security cameras installed in the building were also checked. The cameras showed three men taking out the cupboard from the elevator and leaving it in the reception area, after which they went up to an apartment on the eighth floor.
Further investigation revealed that the body belonged to a man who had violated the UAE residency law and was staying in the apartment along with three countrymen.
As it turned out, the man had died a natural death, but because he had violated the UAE residency law, his compatriots had put him into a cupboard which they dumped.
Investigators identified the suspects through video images captured by the building’s surveillance cameras and arrested them, the official said.
Other cases where cameras have helped
Even during the COVID-19 paramedic, cameras helped trace some criminals who tried to hide their faces behind masks.
Commercial establishments are constantly being urged to install CCTV cameras and not leave large amounts of cash in shops, he said. In one incident, a theft had occurred in a commercial company but there was no camera on the premises. As such, the company could not produce any evidence. However, when the police searched nearby premises, they found a laundry shop that had installed a camera. And sure enough, the camera helped the police identify the thieves and arrest them.
The officials said last year Sharjah Police carried out a project titled “Saher” to ensure all commercial, residential and industrial buildings in Sharjah install CCTVs.
Even a single apartment dweller can benefit from installing a CCTV system at home. Video surveillance systems are extremely useful in crowded areas, such as parking lots where cars with unlocked doors or valuables inside become easy targets for criminals.
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.
The sight of a video surveillance system is itself an effective deterrent, the official said. Some people are discouraged by mere signage indicating that there are cameras installed.
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 the security cameras to verify whether someone matching that description was in the vicinity of the crime at the time.
According to Sharjah Police, there are any numbers of cases where cameras have immensely helped. 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 incident, the owner of a house who complained that money was disappearing from his wallet on a daily basis was advised to install a camera, following which the housemaid was caught stealing the money. A sum of Dh10,000 was recovered from her belongings.
In yet another kind of 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.
Besides, several stolen cars were also recovered. In one incident, police received a call about a stolen vehicle which was coming from Abu Dhabi. When the car entered Sharjah, police cameras spotted it, tracked its movement and caught up with the driver.
Number of cameras installed
Colonel Nasser Bin Afsan, director of electronic services department at Sharjah Police, said Sharjah Police have completed the installation of 28,320 high-tech CCTV surveillance cameras in Sharjah. 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.
He said up to 673,000 traffic violations concerning the seat belt and use of mobile phones were caught on camera between January 1, 2020 and September 30, 2021.
Cameras also caught 2,469 negative incidents, including begging, illegal vendor operations and driving violations. They also caught 144 sensitive cases, including harassment.
In one incident, police cameras caught a driver commit traffic violations for a month on a Sharjah road. When the drived was summoned and notified of his violation, he denied doing it, the official said, but added that the video footage extracted from the camera helped prove his lie.
The intention of the police is not to impose fines on erring drivers, but rather educate them about traffic rules and correct their behaviour on the roads, the official said.
Cameras also help in settling business disputes, whether it is a family disagreement, a dispute between staff and customers or employers and employees.
Col. Bin Afsan said companies must install cameras and link them to the police operation room. This is especially important for banks, money exchanges and jewellery shops.
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 securing 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.
Sharjah’s surveillance cameras at a glance
28,320 security cameras installed in prime locations.
Up to 673,000 traffic violations concerning seat belts and use of mobile phone caught on camera between January 1, 2020 and September 30, 2021.
2,469 negative incidents, including begging, illegal vendor operations, identified.
144 sensitive cases, including harassment, solved
19,903 residential buildings, commercial and industrial establishments covered by CCTVs.
Around 200 companies licensed by Sharjah Police to provide installation of camera services.