Its midnight in Islamabad, Pakistan’s federal capital. The mercury has fallen down to 6 at Celsius scale. It feels like freezing cold outside. A piercing cold wave has swept across the city which is home to local society, foreign missions, country’s President and Prime Minister and top bureaucracy.
Markets and public transport has been closed. While a little above million residents of this city are enjoying sound sleep.
However, things are totally otherwise at Safe City Islamabad – Capital Command and Control Center which is situated at a distance of about 14.5 Kilometers to West of Prime Minister Secretariat, where Staff and supervisors are fresh and attentive as the city takes nap, keeping eye on every nook and corner of the city through thousands of Close Circuit Television Cameras installed across the city sending high definition live feed through dedicated high speed fiber optics all over the city to Safe City command and control center as all-weather eyes, the major part of Safe City Islamabad Project.
Even at night, these cameras continuously send ‘crystal clear’ footage of people’s movement and vehicle’s routing, enabling staff at command and control center, to monitor all the movements throughout the city 24 hours, 7 days a week.
“These are the unsung heroes who remain vigilant round the clock to keep check on suspects including thieves, burglars, terrorists, dacoits and so on in order to keep the city and citizens safe with the maximum efforts” said Mr. Kashan Ahmad, the Project Director of Safe City Islamabad project.
“The information collected from thousands of surveillance cameras, intelligent detectors and explosive scanners covering major roads, sensitive areas and crowded localities, is transmitted in real-time to a control center where staff, record and take action when necessary,” he added.
Soon after its inauguration by the former Interior Minister, Ch. Nisar Ali Khan in Jun, 2016, Safe City Islamabad Project has been instrumental in reducing crime rate in the federal capital.
In January 2019, Federal government told Pakistan’s National Assembly that it has been an 11% decrease in major criminal activities reported in the capital since 2017.
According to data presented in the front of the National Assembly there has been observed sharp decline in incidents of car thefts, motorcycle thefts, robberies and thanks to Safe city Islamabad project where dutiful staff immediately intimate law enforcement agencies In case of emergency.
Data shows there was a 20pc decrease in murders, from 105 in 2017 to 85 in 2018. Robberies also decreased from 427 in 2017 to 403 in 2018; the reply said this was a 5pc decrease.
There were 129 car thefts in 2018 compared to 156 in 2017, and 236 motorcycle thefts in 2018 compared to 257 in 2017.
The date shows there was a 17pc decrease in car thefts and a 8pc decrease in motorcycle thefts.
The number of kidnappings fell from 122 in 2017 to 99 in 2018. It said this was a 21pc decrease. There was also noted a decrease in armed-robberies, from 39 in 2017 to 28 in 2018.
Officials of Interior Ministry give high credit to Safe City Islamabad Project which, according to them, has assisted Islamabad Capital Territory police to curb crime in the city.
“Safe city project has been helpful for Islamabad capital territory police to bring down crime rate,” a senior official of interior Ministry told Correspondent.
While the government has acknowledged the contributions of Safe City Islamabad project is controlling crime in the capital, Mr. Kashan Ahmad, believes the project has actually helped law enforcement in reducing crime rate as much as 30-35% comparing with the situation before the safe city implementation.
“We have been helping intelligence and security agencies in several ways but in a quiet path. We have also served many citizens from various kinds of accidents in which they have actually come, seen and witnessed the benefits of the project. It has helped Capital Police to reduce crime ratio by 30-35 percent,” Kashan said.
Speaking highly of Safe City Islamabad Project, higher officials of intelligence agencies say, the project has been helping them in tracing high profile terrorists and busting rings of notorious gangs.
“Real time footage by CCTV cameras and intelligent systems and sharing of vital information by Staff of Safe City Islamabad Project have helped us in busting notorious gangs. Team at this project is doing great job,” said Islamabad Deputy Director of Intelligence Bureau who wished not to be named in story.
Public security threat is a growing problem for all giant cities worldwide. As Pakistan’s cities are bursting at the seams, civic resources are under pressure and crime is harder than ever to police. As it stands, most video-only surveillance technology is inefficient, it has to be supported by many other intelligent analytics features for pre-detection and decision-making. Police investigations were also often hampered by blind spots in video networks and low-quality imagery.
Issues with data storage and retrieval mean incident data can be slow to reach command staff, and data loss can derail investigations altogether.
In Pakistan, government has been struggling hard by implementing safe cities to reduce crime rate in big cities like Lahore, Karachi, Islamabad and Peshawar.
However, more advanced concept like smart city is now available in the changing world, which is built up based on safe city projects.
“Smart cities which make use of an integration of inter-connected devices, software and cloud storage systems to enable public and private services to work together more efficiently are, as a concept, safer cities. In Islamabad and Lahore, we are utilizing this same network of connected devices, or Internet of Things (IOT), enabling law enforcement agencies to improve public services efficiency such as 15 responding, crime-fighting, and to keep an eye on what is going on generally,” Kashan Ahmad, the Project Director said.
There are hundreds of specific facial recognition cameras in Safe City Islamabad Project which can track anyone in Islamabad within seconds. More importantly, they have enabled the city to have a technology-based security system to keep vigilance on suspects.
Sources said, Facial recognition technology had helped law enforcement agencies to foil two attempts of car bombing in Islamabad.
“It’s true. Facial recognition technology has helped us to immediately recognize suspects. We immediately shared data with Islamabad police which led them to intercept explosive laden vehicles arresting the suspects,” Naeem Iqbal, the Project Manager said.
Inspector General of Islamabad Capital Territory police believes Safe City Islamabad project has improved police’s efficiency.
“Network infrastructure of Safe City Islamabad is helping police to prevent criminal and terrorist activities through sophisticated monitoring, smart alert systems and visual command and dispatch,” Amir Zulfiqar Khan, the Inspector General of Police told this correspondent.
Officials of Federal Interior Ministry and Prime Minister Office have revealed that success of Islamabad Safe City Project and Lahore Safe City Project has impressed the government which is, now, planning to introduce these projects in six more cities including Gwadar, Faisalabad, Karachi and Peshawar.
Meanwhile, with the day to day extension of Islamabad Capital territory and the shift of new airport, the camera coverage of the long time before designed Safe City Islamabad may not be sufficient enough now to provide services to the public, the extension of the safe city is also expected from the federal government to catch up with the speed of growing Capital.