Eight years after Lashkar-e-Taiba terrorists snuck into Mumbai, spread out undetected and unleashed a scarring attack on the city, the administration has slowly started putting in place the security upgrades the city requires.
After years of staying on paper, a network of 4,800 hi-tech CCTV cameras went live this October — panning, zooming and keeping watch on Mumbai. Along with it came a swanky facelift for the police control room and a technical team that is constantly watching the camera feeds.
“There are 25 people from L&T and 15 police personnel who monitor footage in three shifts. We monitor both general and incident-based feeds,” said Ashok Dudhe, deputy commissioner of police (operations), who heads the control room. Dudhe said the extensive network is also helping the police force bring down petty crimes across the city.
The ambitious project was conceived in the aftermath of the November 26, 2008 terrorist attacks, according to recommendations of the Ram Pradhan committee. CCTV cameras were to be installed at more than 1,000 locations. Bids for the project were first invited in 2012 and 2013. In February 2015, the state government finally got cracking, signing a Rs949-crore deal with L&T for installation of 6,000 cameras. The feeds of the CCTV network can be stored for up to a month, and viewed by police stations, offices of the zonal deputy and additional commissioners and the main control room.
Spots for the CCTV cameras were chosen by the police stations in their respective jurisdictions. The surveillance area of one camera begins where the coverage point of another ends. Of 91 possible landing points in Mumbai, 21 sensitive areas have been covered by cameras and watchtowers. The others are being brought under technical surveillance. All sensitive and vital installations are also under surveillance.
“With this CCTV network, the police are equipped better to deal with any incident and the situation can only improve as processes synchronise. These cameras add to the police presence, and should not be seen as a replacement,” Dudhe said.
Most of the cameras can pan, tilt and zoom. The ones installed at 20 points along the coastline are equipped with thermal censors. All the cameras are connected to the main control room at Crawford market, while parallel connections have been given to the emergency control room at Kalina.
Considering the scale of the attacks that still resonate in India, experts pointed out that a lot remains to be done to ensure Mumbai is under constant surveillance.