//Fighting terror digitally in Jammu & Kashmir cities

Fighting terror digitally in Jammu & Kashmir cities

Neelesh Misra, Hindustan Times,

Srinagar, November 23, 2006
In a new push to fight urban terror attacks, the Jammu and Kashmir police department has digitally mapped both Srinagar and Jammu, installed secret cameras at 32 vulnerable public places, and wired police squads with Global Positioning System (GPS) devices in both the cities, say police officials.

The Hindustan Times was provided exclusive details of, and footage from, the new security system — including the cameras that are up and running in Srinagar, and expected to begin working in Jammu within a month.

The high-resolution surveillance cameras have already captured immediate footage of two grenade blasts — at Dal Gate, the entry to the lakeside boulevard, and at the Batmaloo bus station — and a suicide attack at the Standard Hotel at Lal Chowk, the city's main square.

The attackers, however, had their backs to the cameras in all cases, preventing identification.

Video footage made available to HT showed normal daytime traffic outside the Standard Hotel erupting into chaos following a sudden blast, as civilians emptied out of the streets and police cars rushed towards a building occupied by militants.

Bullets hit the walls. Smoke billowed. One by one, the security forces took control of three of the four floors of the building, leaving the militants trapped on the second floor.

The camera caught one militant crouching in a corner, then finally getting up to make a desperate dash for freedom. A few minutes later, racing down the road, he was brought down in a hail of bullets.

The new gadget will, among other advantages, enable the state's police chief to sit in his winter office in Jammu and watch – live on his computer screen — the goings-on hundreds of kilometers away in Srinagar.

"We are the first police force in the country to install this," said a senior police official on condition of anonymity. "We are converting a normal police control room into a command centre."

Officials believe the new initiative will also help police identify suspects and increase transparency. Camera images will, for example, help establish the truth in cases where the police are accused of excesses in dealing with public protests.

When a militant attack is reported in any part of the two cities, the calls to the police control room will be answered by a call centre where trained police staff will take down information, trace the location of the nearest police cars and direct them to the site of the attack.

The mobile phones of officers will soon be wired into the GPS-based security grid, officials said.

Such systems are common in many Western countries, but are used to tackle crime and traffic violations. In J&K, they will be focused entirely on fighting militant attacks.

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