New ways to fight street crime

New ways to fight street crime

Police opt for a people-friendly, high-tech approach

National police chief Suwat Jangyodsuk makes a point during a press conference as he stresses the importance of combining technology and people-centric approaches to curb street crime under the Smart Safety Zone 4.0 project. (Royal Thai Police photo)
National police chief Suwat Jangyodsuk makes a point during a press conference as he stresses the importance of combining technology and people-centric approaches to curb street crime under the Smart Safety Zone 4.0 project. (Royal Thai Police photo)

Fifteen police stations nationwide are participating in a project that combines technology and people-centric approaches in the fight against street crime.

National police chief Suwat Jangyodsuk said that police need to rethink ways of suppressing crime. They need to be book-smart and have up-to-date knowledge of criminology, he said.

Such knowledge improves work efficiency in what Pol Gen Suwat described as a constantly changing social environment. The increasingly complex social setting has bred sophisticated crimes that police must be able to counter, he said.

Such challenges are being addressed with the Smart Safety Zone 4.0 (SSZ 4.0) project being piloted by 15 police stations in Bangkok, Nonthaburi, Samut Prakan, Chon Buri, Rayong, Prachin Buri, Nakhon Ratchasima, Udon Thani, Chiang Mai, Phitsanulok, Ratchaburi, Phuket and Songkhla.

The project, launched last Tuesday, marks a shift in the country's crime suppression efforts.

The 15 stations were selected for their locations within the respective provinces' economic heartlands where there are high levels of public concern over crime.

Under the project, police officers will hold regular training and will invite local stakeholders -- including politicians, civil servants, religious and education leaders, media practitioners and businesses -- to be part of crime prevention programmes.

The SSZ 4.0 project combines the use of hardware installed in a special control centre with technical equipment such as smart cameras, instant crime alert equipment and a drone for crime tracking. Also being fitted at the 15 police stations will be state-of-the-art surveillance cameras capable of swivelling and relaying sound. The cameras will also work in sync with those installed by private businesses.

The SSZ 4.0 project was initiated by the Royal Thai Police's strategy office and approved by Pol Gen Suwat. It falls under the supervision of Pol Lt Gen Surachet Hakpan, the RTP adviser who will be promoted to assistant national police chief next month.

"People must be able to walk on the streets feeling safe and secure," Pol Gen Suwat said.

The success of the project lies in the participation of local people and stakeholders. People must be aware they play a role in keeping their own backyard safe, he said.

On the police's part, Pol Gen Suwat admitted the officers have placed too heavy a focus on enforcing the law and catching as many suspects as possible. "But that hasn't brought down crime," the national police chief said. "The police cannot go it alone without the help of the people and expect to bask in achievements," he said.

In 1988, the police introduced a strong law enforcement scheme in communities which proved a failure as the crime rate in the country climbed while the police's image and reputation took a nosedive.

"It was clear we were heading in the wrong direction," Pol Gen Suwat said.

Later, a community policing theory was put forth, based on the idea that has transformed police work for the better in many countries. From being litigious, police became more obliging which won over more people. Once people trusted the police, they opened up about their needs and problems which allowed officers insight into some of the reasons behind the crimes.

With this in mind, the indicator of the project's success will be that people in a given locality are less fearful of crimes and more confident about what the police are doing, he said.

On Sunday, Pol Gen Suwat travelled to Phuket to follow up on the project whose implementation was discussed at a meeting joined by deputy provincial governor Pichet Panapong and representatives of local stakeholders.

Pol Gen Suwat said the assessment of the SSZ 4.0 project came ahead of the imminent reopening of the country to tourism on Nov 1.

The police chief said his visit to Phuket would enable the police to better prepare for the resumption of tourism as the island province had opened its door to overseas visitors under the sandbox programme since July 1 and experienced opportunities and problems from the reopening.

In Phuket, Muang police station has been chosen for the SSZ 4.0 project. Located in the Phuket old town area, the station has the SSZ 4.0 jurisdiction spanning about 1km in radius.

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