CCTV is Jack’s best friend

Jack Bauer -

Coming to an HDB estate near you

Jack Bauer could well be headed to Singapore.

Yes, I’m referring to the no-nonsense death-defying counter-terrorist government-agent-turned-rogue-protector of the USA from the acclaimed TV series 24.

As fans are aware, the series ended its eight-season run in 2010. It was getting a bit tired towards the last few seasons to be honest. After all, how much more elaborate can the nuclear bomb plots be? How many more government moles can we grind our teeth over?

But let’s not forget — Jack is still alive. And now there is a new playground that has all he needs to run around in his high intensity game of chase, right here in the heartlands of Singapore:


  • High density urban landscape — check
  • Constant terrorism threat — yes, that’s why we need the ISA
  • Confessions under duress — there are signs of it
  • Anal authorities — definitely
  • Unscrupulous government officials — well, you never know
  • CCTV everywhere — why yes!

As reported in the news, the Singapore Police Force is putting out tenders to set up 23,600 closed-circuit surveillance cameras in HDB estates over the next few years. They expect to cover all 10,000 HDB blocks and multi-storey carparks across Singapore by 2016.

According to the Straits Times report,

The specifications in last month’s tender state that the surveillance system should also be able to send a snapshot of a video, via a multimedia message, to the mobile phones of authorised officers.

Such is stuff as wet dreams of TV producers are made of. Fans of 24 will attest that there is always a CCTV camera nearby where there’s a suspect on the loose, be it in Los Angeles or New York City. How many times have we seen Chloe O’Brian, Jack’s reluctant but trusty sidekick, use her uncanny technical prowess to pull out a low resolution pixelated street image and process it instantly into a high definition photo that can catch out any potential threat by a dark spot on the face?

Yes, I jest, because CCTV always reminds me of 24. Yet I am not critical of such a move, provided it is limited to public street surveillance. Having been mugged in the streets of London myself, I wish there are cameras in every dark alley I walk at night. If confronted by a mugger, I wish I could point over his shoulder and say, “Hey, look, there’s a camera behind you!”, so that the perpetrator would turn over and get his face captured on the CCTV while I dash off on this momentary distraction, leaving him choking in a cloud of dust left in my wake.

My fantasy aside, the presence of cameras is a useful deterrent of crime. There will be privacy and big brother concerns, but it is in the public space after all.

Of course, whether it will be money well spent is a different matter. Our HDB estates are still very safe areas to hang around, though it’s also good to plan ahead. Even if there’s little crime, we could still use the cameras to catch an errant cat or two.