In less than a month, we have seen four bombings with deadly consequences. Ankara, Istanbul, Brussels and Lahore were all targets of terrorism.
The attacks came from different groups, yet the modus operandi was the same: Pick a popular, soft target and let it rip, causing appalling carnage with maximum media coverage.
At a high level, there are some key factors in ensuring adequate security.
First, public policy: With stronger security legislation, terrorists are less likely to attack or to be successful in carrying out one.
Second, access control: The more walls and checkpoints are used, the more difficult it is for terrorists.
Third, detection: The more systems are used, the more likely and sooner terrorists will be detected.
Fourth, response: Better responders and richer information improves the probability of stopping terrorists quickly and without losses.
Singapore has strict legislation pertaining to weapons possession and sympathising with terrorist causes. Under the Protected Areas and Protected Places Act, certain locations such as airports have added security.
Barriers to entry, however, seem only feasible in protected places and private establishments. And it can be understood from these attacks that the locations picked are usually highly public places.
This leaves the last two factors that really matter. Singapore’s security agencies must do more in terms of detection and response.
Last week, after the SMRT incident, it came as a surprise to many Singaporeans that there were no closed-circuit television cameras on the track between the stations. Also, during the Little India riot, the police response was less than adequate.
No doubt the level of training in the Singapore Police Force and our security forces is top-notch, but the question is whether the relevant authorities are applying the right technology to the job.
Smart CCTV, access control systems such as Brivo OnAir for Government and video analytics already exist. These systems allow for ease of locating incidents on CCTV footage, alert notifications, instant sharing of footage with stakeholders, detection of unattended baggage, crowd counting to manage places such as Little India, et cetera. Using such systems would free up manpower for other duties. There would be no need for a team to sit and monitor CCTV footage for hours.
Early detection of a suspicious item or person could allow for a swift response, thereby preventing a major disaster. Through facial recognition and gait identification, wanted persons can also be detected.
The resources are there, and it is crucial that Singapore keeps its security technology up to date.