By Hassan Nawaz Tarar

LAHORE – It would not be possible to curb crimes or trace the whereabouts of the criminal elements, particularly in thickly populated commercial areas without putting in place a strong surveillance system.

In this regard, the Punjab Safe Cities Authority (PSCA) has played instrumental role not only in modernizing the police system of the province but also offering round-the-clock surveillance system to ensure security of the cities.

Time and again, the authority has helped in reaching out to the real culprits soon after the suicide blast in Data Darbar on May 2019, the police, law enforcement agencies and people were looking towards the PSCA for tracing the anti-state elements involved in the incident.

The PSCA equipped with modern high-tech cameras has provided all-out support to the investigators to trace the identity and hideouts of the facilitators of the Data Darbar attack. Earlier, the sophisticated cameras of the PSCA have also helped a lot in the arrest of the culprits and facilitators of the Charing Cross terrorist attack in 2017.

In comparison to the Safe City Project Islamabad, the PSCA was five-times bigger project with an annual budget of about Rs 13 billion aimed at bringing about modifications in the policing system of the province. The project was directed to eliminate `Thana Culture’ in the province besides ensuring citizens’ integrated monitoring system through modern tools and cameras.

The authority was also intended to pave the way for improving traffic management system, which was successfully going on through 4-G technology. For improving law and order, the police benefited from the PSCA services and got installed closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras at its patrolling vehicles for pursuing an accountability system in the force besides enabling the commanders’ safe movement through 4-G handsets during any police operations.

The PSCA has also launched an effective initiative for creating awareness among the people about traffic rules, for which it had successfully installed the light-emitting diodes (LEDs) for variable messaging services, displaying traffic messages in English and Urdu languages through pictures and other materials, conveying the road safety material on important thoroughfares in the provincial metropolis. These measures helped in reducing traffic accidents to a significant number.

Due to the project, a remarkable decline was witnessed in crime rate as the initiative has brought down the crime to 60-65 per cent within a short span of time in Lahore. Consequently, it was decided to expand the project to nine other districts of the province including Faisalabad, Rawalpindi, Bahawalpur, Multan, Gujranwala, Sargodha, Nankana Sahib, Sheikhupura and Kasur.

For monitoring and analysing the visuals, the Asia’s biggest wall of video was set up in Punjab Police Integrated Command Control and Communication Centre and about 8,000 cameras, with high technology having features to rotate, night vision readability, face recognition and a number of other related ones were installed in Lahore to make the city safe and secure.

The PSCA, on the directions of the Lahore High Court, made a plan with the collaboration of City Traffic Police (CTP) to start e-ticketing over violation of the traffic rules and laws from September 24 last year, under which more than one million e-tickets had been issued and sent to the residential addresses of vehicle owners, while a total of Rs 130 million fine had also been recovered from violators and deposited in the exchequer.

After the success of e-ticketing system in Lahore, the Islamabad Safe City project’s officials also sought cooperation from the PSCA for launching e-ticketing in Islamabad Capital Territory. After effectively perusing and implementing the safe city project in Lahore, the PSCA extended its support, particularly technical one, to Quetta and Peshawar Safe City projects.

Moreover, a mechanism was evolved to link all police officers of the province and 1,200 police stations with the Safe Police Network. The main reason for designing the unified system was to make complete data of the police emergency-15 available for analysing the police response and the crime rate, whereas it can help provincial police officer, regional and district police officers to evaluate the police performance.

Another milestone, the PSCA achieved was introduction of separate lanes for motorcycles and slow-moving vehicles on The Mall and Canal Road to improve the traffic system. Initially, separate lanes have been dedicated on the roads for fast and slow-moving vehicles, like motorcycle, rickshaws and bicycles to maintain smooth flow of traffic.

The PSCA ‘Lost and Found’ centre’s statistics for the year 2018-19 revealed that it helped in handing over 95 missing persons and children to their guardians during a year. The authority would soon extend the Lost and Found circle to the whole province.