Smile, you’re on candid camera!

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Smile, you’re on candid camera!

Postby admin » Wed Apr 15, 2009 12:57 pm

IT IS no longer a secret. The Shanghai police has made public the 1,740 locations of its electronic eyes in the city.

Soon after the police posted the list on its website on April 1, millions of Internet users flooded the website.

It was more than the police could handle and the website was disrupted temporarily due to the heavy traffic.

The move by the cops is in compliance with a national mandate for improved transparency concerning the traffic surveillance system.

It was not that the authorities wanted to make it easier for motorists to avoid speed traps; rather, widespread knowledge of the locations of the cameras would help improve road safety, said the cops.

I will always remember the traffic summons I received in the mail for a speeding offence I committed along the Middle Ring Road 2 in Gombak several years ago. But, I cannot recall ever reading any news of our traffic police telling us where its cameras were installed.

While the merit of disclosure of the locations of speed-trap detection cameras is debatable, I feel that the advance knowledge will encourage motorists to drive safely, at least on those stretches.

The cops in Shanghai have made it clear that the cameras would be used only to nab speedsters and those who change lanes illegally, beat traffic lights or drive in the wrong direction.

Errant motorists who are caught will receive a summons of 200 yuan (RM106) and incur penalty points on their driving licence.

In fact, experienced taxi and car drivers do not have to rely much on the information to avoid speed traps. They have devices, bought in the black market, installed in their vehicles to detect the cameras.

Many a time I have taken a cab ride around the city and the taxi driver had expertly slowed down on arrival at junctions and highways monitored by cameras.

”We know how to avoid the speed traps but the information will still be useful as the police tend to install new cameras from time to time,” a taxi driver said.

Recently, when I hitched a ride from a local chrysanthemum trader whom I had met in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, I observed him switching on the global positioning (GPS) navigation system in his car before starting on our journey.

“There are many cameras in Hangzhou, and the GPS device tells where the cameras are. You don’t want to take any chances,” he said.

Besides Shanghai, other major cities like Hangzhou, Beijing and Guangzhou have also revealed the locations of their cameras. However, unlike these cities, Shanghai’s police website allows a person to search the specific road he wants.

The city’s police said that they were increasing the number of signboards that warn motorists of surveillance when approaching areas covered by the cameras.

However, all this transparency does not guarantee a fast ride for the motorists.

Radar-equipped police cars would patrol the city as usual to catch errant motorists, warned the cops.

Motorists caught speeding, beating traffic lights or flouting other road regulations will be notified within two weeks of the offence they had committed.

The police said they would review data from the surveillance cameras within 10 working days to gather proof of the offences. After that, violation notices would be issued within three days and they would then be mailed to the respective offenders or car owners.

Motorists can also use a search engine on the police’s website to check whether they have committed any traffic offence monitored by the surveillance system.

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