Saturday, 7 April 2012

CCTV captures thieves at Harimandir Sahib




A CCTV camera installed at the parkarma of the Golden Temple in Amritsar and (right) SGPC employees monitor the footage in the control room

With the CCTV cameras in place for almost a year now, the SGPC authorities have succeeded in curbing thefts and nabbing the culprits in around 200 such cases at the Golden Temple complex, the shrine being a hot spot for thieves due to the inflow of thousands of pilgrims daily.

Of the cases cracked till date, a majority are that of theft of mobile phones and wallets. The area where most of these thefts are reported is Dukhbhanjani Ber, which holds a great significance for devotees who wish to take holy dip in the “sarovar”.

Equally prone to thefts is the Lachi Ber, which is situated right next to the Darshani Deorhi. The spot witnesses a huge rush of devotees in the peak hours as the entrance and the exit route to the holy shrine are located on its either sides.

Onkar Singh, CCTV project incharge, said there were instances when they even caught hold of the thieves on the spot. In other cases, the guards on duty were shown the footage of the thief who is caught as soon as he steps into the complex next time. He said they have also nabbed minor children who were involved in perpetrating thefts. “Recently, we caught a boy aged below 15 for stealing Rs 5,000 cash and a mobile belonging to a devotee.”

They have also identified a couple of women committing thefts on the premises, but they were yet to be caught. “Nabbing them is a tricky job for our male employees and, therefore, we are thinking of seeking the services of female SGPC employees to catch them,” he said.

Apart from cash, valuables and mobile phones, the cases of garment theft have also been reported.

With the rush of pilgrims increasing with the onset of the summer vacations, the CCTV staff is gearing up to deal with the likely spurt in theft cases, the signs of which are already visible.

Onkar revealed that around 10 to 12 incidents of theft were reported on April 2. “With the people wearing lighter clothes, it became easier for pickpockets to steal a wallet or a mobile,” he added. According to him, they also conducted raids in the complex on Saturday night and check the antecedents of the suspected persons. Whether the installation of CCTV cameras has helped curb the criminal activities at the shrine, he replied in affirmative.

SGPC secretary Dalmegh Singh admitted that the project had been quite fruitful. “We keep on reviewing its progress and will install more CCTV cameras wherever needed,” he said. He also felt the need for enhancing the recording capacity at the facility, which is only a few days at present. “We will initiate necessary measures in this regard in near future,” he added.

The SGPC has a separate wing of employees who man the CCTV control room that is set up near the Akal Takht. Apart from them, nine guards, dressed in civvies, are equipped with walkie-talkie sets of which eight are deployed in different parts of the complex while the remaining one is at the control room to give them the directions. There are six control room operators who man the facility round-the-clock. These operators and guards work in eight-hour shifts.

Facts and figures

127 CCTV cameras installed in the Golden Temple complex
101 are outdoor box CCTV cameras
11 CCTVs have distant zoom feature that can turn 360 degrees
1.5 crore rupees is the amount spent on the project
9 guards equipped with walkie-talkie sets man the premises round-the-clock
8 LCD screens, besides other software, installed in the control room having 6 operators
Salient Features

Cameras can capture colour images even at night and come with tilt-zoom and range-adjustment features
There are also infrared CCTV cameras with night vigil facility
Installed in front of the Akal Takht, ‘parkarma’ verandahs, all four “chhabeels” in the ‘parkarma’, “gathri ghar” (baggage room), jora ghar (shoe-deposit centres), ‘kara parshad’ counters and the room where cash offering is counted
Software will not only facilitate identifying any unclaimed object lying in the complex but will also sound an alarm if somebody jumps into the “sarovar”
However, no CCTV camera has been installed on the causeway starting from Darshani Deori to the sanctum sanctorum
Why the need

Attacks on religious places and threats to blow up the Golden Temple
Cases of pick-pocketing and garment thefts on the premises
Instances of children going missing during their visit to the shrine

Perneet Singh, Tribune News Service, Amritsar, April 6

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