Egypt plans nationwide camera surveillance system: Report

Ahram Online , Sunday 3 May 2015

Interior ministry says camera surveillance system will help police tackle crime and terrorism

Surveillance cameras
File Photo: Surveillance cameras are seen on a building (Photo: Reuters)

Egypt's interior ministry is preparing to launch a nationwide camera surveillance system to increase its capacity to combat crime and terrorism, a local newspaper said on Sunday.

Al-Shorouk newspaper reported that the ministry is waiting for cabinet approval of the plan.

Prime Minister Ibrahim Mahlab announced on Friday the creation of a national committee for camera surveillance that would include heads of several divisions from the ministry as well as officials from the general intelligence agency and military intelligence.

According to Al-Shorouk's sources, the cabinet decision has not yet been formally presented to the ministry.

Local daily Al-Masry Al-Youm reported a positive reaction among senior security officials in Egypt's capital, one of whom told the journal that plans for the surveillance system are being drawn up by the ministry.

Egyptian security forces have been locked in a fight with militants since the ouster of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi in the summer of 2013. Hundreds of security personnel have been killed in shootings and bombings.

Despite the violence being mainly confined to the Sinai Peninsula, it has spilled over occasionally into the rest of the country.

Al-Masry Al-Youm said camera surveillance had been successfully tried in Upper Egypt's Minya, albeit for traffic purposes, according to an interview with the officer in charge of the project in the governorate.

Security expert Mahmoud Kotri praised the move, saying it is an important step in fighting crime.

"Preemptive security died in Egypt, this is a good step towards reviving it," he told Ahram Online, but stressed it is useless security forces are ready to deploy quickly to prevent the crimes from occurring.

Like Kotri, former assistant interior minister Mohamed Gamal El-Din told Ahram Online the system would cause a marked improvement in security, saying he had called for it many times before.

El-Din said intelligent camera surveillance systems would allow police to single out suspicious activity and allow police intervention before crimes or acts of terror unfold, saying such systems are implemented across the world, giving London as an example.

"40,000 police cameras watch London's streets. They help them prevent deadly bombings," he said, choosing one of the world's most watched capitals as a good example.

He also added the operation of such cameras in public places, including shops, malls and hotels, would also be beneficial in investigating crimes.

El-Din gave the example of the assassination of Hamas' Qassam Brigades member Mahmoud Al-Mabhouh in Dubai, saying security cameras at his hotel made it easy to identify the assassins.

"Bombings of security directorate headquarters were recorded not by police cams but by cams belonging to nearby buildings, such as the Islamic Museum in the case of Cairo's security directorate bombing. This must be changed," El-Din told Ahram Online. 

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