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OPINION: CCTV expansion in Phuket: Is it warranted?

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PHUKET: On the face of it, the Phuket Provincial Administration Organization’s (PPAO’s) funding of 53 more closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras at a cost of 17 million baht seems a wise use of taxpayer money, which could provide a needed boost in security, albeit initially to Phuket Town residents only.

Numbers alone justify the increased use of ever-improving CCTV technologies in the war against crime. Phuket has a regular police force of about 1,200 officers to provide security for a population generally believed to exceed one million during peak periods.

Although difficult to estimate, the police-to-population ratio could be less than 1:1,000 during the high season. Such a ratio might be appropriate in a Utopian society, but that description hardly fits a tourist destination in Thailand, as best evidenced by the recent series of violent confrontations between visitors and local people.

Indeed, Phuket’s cosmopolitan make-up, huge population of migrants, and drastic disparities between haves and have-nots, conspire to make crime practically unavoidable. Given that the Royal Thai Police have no stated plans to increase the number of officers here, using CCTV and other effective crime-fighting technologies seems the most logical, if not the only, alternative.

This editorial writer may hold a minority view when it comes to the value of CCTV coverage. Preliminary results of a Gazette reader’s poll on whether expansion of the system will make much of a difference reflect widespread pessimism in all three demographics: Thais, expats and tourists. (Click here to see a detailed breakdown and, if you wish, cast your vote.)

With 641 votes to date, the number of people who feel increased CCTV coverage won’t make any difference (67.2%) is almost double the number who think it will (32.8%).

And the great majority of those in favor of the cameras think that expansion of their use should be occurring in Patong and Karon, where tuk-tuk drivers congregate, and not in Phuket Town, reflecting, yet again, the widely held belief that the island’s transport syndicates – and the forces that enable their existence –are the biggest threat to tourism and the rule of law and order.

The effectiveness of CCTV surveillance is only as good as the people behind the monitors.

Given the extent to which police manpower is spread thin, the joint plan by the PPAO and Phuket Town police to use disabled people to monitor the screens makes perfect sense in principle. But, with no lifts in the Phuket Town police station, it is difficult to imagine how disabled people, particularly those in wheelchairs, would reach the fourth floor where the monitors are installed.

So, unfortunately, the project is unlikely to be of much use to those who might have benefited most from it.

— Stephen Michael Fein

 

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Archiving articles from the Phuket Gazette circa 1998 - 2017. View the Phuket Gazette online archive and Digital Gazette PDF Prints.

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