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KL under surveillance

All systems go: The video wall of the Integrated Transport Information System or ITIS 2.0 in TMC Bukit Jalil is now up and running.

All systems go: The video wall of the Integrated Transport Information System or ITIS 2.0 in TMC Bukit Jalil is now up and running.

AFTER losing millions in a failed traffic surveillance system that was touted to be ahead of its time and too advanced for the staff of Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL) to manage, a newer version of the Integrated Transport Information System or ITIS 2.0 is said to be even more state-of-the-art.

This time, however, DBKL has outsourced the service to a third party to save cost.

But the question that needs to be asked is, will the system help ease traffic and solve crime in the long run or will it be another white elephant?

Next gen system

A total of 967 closed-circuit television cameras (CCTV) out of 1,000 have already been installed. Some 135 variable message signs or VMS boards are up and the giant multi-million ringgit video wall is now live over at the Transport Management Centre (TMC) in Bukit Jalil Technology Park, Sungei Besi.

After several delays, ITIS 2.0 is finally back on track.

The buzz can certainly be felt at the ITIS headquarters in Bukit Jalil. The excitement was evident when StarMetro was given a sneak peek ahead of its planned re-launch in May.

All the CCTVs and cameras have been linked up to the five police district headquarters in Kuala Lumpur, costing RM200mil in taxpayers’ funds to revive the long- dead system.

For traffic: 135 variable message signs or VMS boards are used to disseminate information.
For traffic: 135 variable message signs or VMS boards are used to disseminate information.

The cameras are located at strategic areas in the city and are all synchronised and monitored by the police departments in Bukit Aman, Dang Wangi, Cheras, Sentul and Brickfields, as well as linked to the ITIS headquarters in Bukit Jalil where the footage will be stored for 14 days.

On paper, it would seem that ITIS 2.0 is ready to provide the much-needed service that it was intended for; to provide 24-hour crime surveillance, monitor traffic, collect data and disseminate information.

DBKL Urban Transportation Department director Dr Leong Siew Mun explained that apart from some minor glitches, it is safe to say that ITIS is 99% ready.

“A few VMS boards and CCTVs had to be relocated because of the ongoing MRT projects, which was not part of the master plan 10 years ago when ITIS was first launched. Apart from that, everything else is functioning quite well,’’ Leong said.

For the record

The old ITIS was mooted to solve Kuala Lumpur’s traffic congestion problem 10 years ago. The previous project costing RM365mil was launched in 2002, but was only operational at the end of 2005.

The system was developed to receive, analyse and evaluate data before disseminating information to road users on which routes to take or avoid.

Less than two years after ITIS went live, signs of trouble began to emerge when vandals and cable thieves discovered the locations of the lucrative copper cables and wires installed for the system.

Within the first 15 months of implementation, thieves carted away about RM500,000 worth of cables and computer chips from some VMS boards, rendering them useless.

The 2011 Auditor-General’s Report highlighted wastage of components worth millions of ringgit that were already obsolete.

In late 2012, Kuala Lumpur mayor Datuk Seri Ahmad Phesal Talib called for an open tender to appoint new contractors to revive and improve the system.

GTC Global Sdn Bhd won the RM200mil contract in 2013 to get ITIS back on track. The company was acquired by Telekom Malaysia Bhd last year.

“We are confident of Telekom’s ability to handle this project, but this time, we are doing it differently.

“Instead of managing the system, we will lease the necessary equipment to them so that their contractor takes the risk,” said Ahmad Phesal.

“We want a workable system, so we pay for the images and operation, while the contractor handles the technology, maintenance cost and upgrades,’’ he said, adding that the new system would address technology changes, vandalism, cut maintenance costs and save DBKL money.

Idealistic scenario

Now with the cameras online, if a crime is spotted on any one of the video feeds in Jalan Bangsar, the officer monitoring the system at IPD Brickfields will immediately alert the area’s district police control centre, most probably the Travers Police station, which in turn will relay the information to the crime prevention patrol units on the ground who would rush to the scene.

City Hall also hopes to catch traffic violators the same way.

For instance, private cars double-parked, buses stopping at non-designated bus stops and lorry drivers flouting traffic rules will be dealt with once caught.

Errant taxi drivers charging exorbitant fees in front of Pavilion Kuala Lumpur will be reported to the Land Public Transport Commission (SPAD).

The system is also designed to disseminate information during flash floods and accidents, to alert the rescue units.

But will it work?

Reality check

Even though there is a network of cameras capturing images of snatch thefts, muggings, accidents and traffic offences; safety and traffic advocates are saying that it does not really help solve crime or ease traffic.

Malaysians Against Rape, Assault and Snatch Theft (Marah) founder Dave Avran said to an extent, ITIS does help, but it takes a lot more than a network of cameras to solve crime.

“It requires a lot of dedication and follow-up action with the authorities or else, it is just going to be another white elephant,’’ he added.

Avran explained that the chances of capturing crime on camera is high, but the footage does very little to solve the crime. It will, however, create more awareness for people to be extra careful.

Traffic consultant Goh Bok Yen agrees.

“If you are talking about solving crime and traffic problems altogether, then that is impossible,’’ Goh said.

“It does, however, create a sense of awareness, it gives a perception of safety that the cameras are watching the bad guys,’’ Goh added.

However, more often than not, even though the cameras had identified a traffic offender, by the time the police arrived at the scene, the perpetrator had already left, said a reliable source from City Hall.

So what if Big Brother is watching

The chairman of Brickfields RT, S.K.K Naidu, opined that the cameras may make people feel secure knowing that the criminals are being watched.

“No doubt the cameras help, but it does not help catch the bad guy, simply because the bad guy is smarter.

“We have plenty of snatch theft footage, but very rarely do we catch the criminals,’’ Naidu said.

“The criminals have become very sophisticated and smarter.

“You can never find them without a helmet and they use vehicles with fake number plates to carry out their crime,’’ he said.

In 2009, in a bid to curb illegal dumping in the city centre, several surveillance cameras were installed at Jalan Tun Sambanthan 3, next to the KL Sentral monorail station in Brickfields, Jalan Alor in Bukit Bintang and Jalan Brunei in Pudu.

The purpose of this pilot project, a joint venture with DBKL and Alam Flora, is to nab those who dump garbage indiscriminately. At the end of the day, the project proved to be a failure with plenty of images collected of people dumping rubbish.

“What we had was a lot of people who found ways to beat the cameras.

“They would cover their face, wear a cap or a hoodie so we caught no one,’’ said a DBKL source.

Cameras versus the police

After last year’s bombing at the Cherry Blossom Club in Bukit Bintang, sources said the police were unable to find anything using the CCTV cameras in the area. In fact, according to a DBKL source, all cameras were looking elsewhere.

The incident prompted the Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar to say that the city needs more than 300 CCTV cameras to effectively combat and prevent crime.

According to the IGP, capital cities such as London has 40,000 cameras while Shanghai has 7,000 installed city-wide.

Captain K. Bala, a safety activist and emergency survival trainer, said that while CCTVs do not deter crime, it does, however, help the police in investigations.

But, will having more cameras solve the problem?

“From a crime-prevention perspective, it is always better to have more police presence,’’ Bala said.

“More cameras are good, but it takes time to monitor and go through the images.

“What’s the point of having officers sitting in a room full of cameras going through images?’’ asked Pravina Nair, a recent snatch-theft victim from Brickfields.

“My chain was snatched outside a temple and the image was captured on the temple’s security camera.

“The police was not able to do anything because the thief was wearing a dark helmet.

“The security guard was an old man and could not do anything.

“I would feel safer if there are more police officers walking around,’’ she said.

Another point brought up by Bala was the privacy factor: “Who monitors the cameras?

ITIS 2.0 is managed by a Telekom subsidiary, GTC Global.

Bala warned that only the police should manage the system as it could easily lead to abuse.

“In today’s age of terrorism, it is better that the police monitor the cameras and not a third party.

“Imagine information being sold to third parties like debt collectors and private investigators.

“It will open a can of worms and worse still, involve major security issues,’’ he said, adding that in today’s world, someone is always watching.

Central Region , Itis 2 0