Singapore 11th most-surveilled city in the world: study

CCTV cameras. [Photo: Victor Garcia/ Unsplash]
CCTV cameras. [Photo: Victor Garcia/ Unsplash]

We’re all familiar with the sight of CCTV cameras in Singapore. We see them at MRT stations, near bus stops, and in the HDB blocks most of us live in. We won’t even get into dashcams, which have been capturing delightful shenanigans for years now.

But how many CCTV cameras are there, really?

According to findings recently revealed by tech research firm Comparitech, there are roughly 86,000 cameras in Singapore keeping an eye on all 5.6 million of us.

That’s about 15 cameras per 1,000 Singaporeans, putting us on the 11th spot in the top 20 list of most-surveilled cities in the world.

Not surprisingly, the list is filled with mostly Chinese cities. Topping the list is Chongqing, followed by Hong Kong neighbor Shenzhen – dubbed the country’s Silicon Valley — and then Shanghai, Tianjin, and Ji’nan.

Wuhan, Guangzhou, and Beijing took up the number 7 to 9 spots respectively while Urumqi, the capital city of the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, is at number 14. In case you didn’t know, Xinjiang is where concentration camps for the Muslim Uighurs are located.

By the way, the numbers for cameras per citizen in China are absolutely stunning. Our 15 CCTV units per 1,000 people is child’s play compared to the 168 cameras Chongqing has for every 1,000 people. Heck, even London is pretty crazy, with just over 68 cameras per 1,000 people.

Moscow (#18), Berlin (#19), and New Delhi (#20) rounded out the top 20 for those curious.

List of top 20 most surveilled cities. (Graphic: Comparitech)
List of top 20 most surveilled cities. (Graphic: Comparitech)

As you can see, the only two cities outside of China in the top 10 are London (#6) with nearly 630,000 cameras monitoring over 9 million people, and the US’ Atlanta, Georgia, with 7,800 cameras surveilling just a little over 500,000 people.

The study by Comparitech only focuses on CCTV cameras used by government entities (wait, what?), with researchers deriving the figures after collating data from resources including government reports, police websites and news articles, it says on its website.

However, the actual figures could be higher or lower than indicated, as most sources tend to report only estimates. This is hampered by the general lack of public information on CCTV cameras, it added. Cities with insufficient available data on the use of CCTV cameras were also excluded from the study.

Top 50 surveilled cities in the world. (Table: Comparitech)
Top 50 surveilled cities in the world. (Table: Comparitech)

So why the need for so many CCTV cameras? Some would say it is to keep the city safer, while others may see it as a way to intrude into our private lives.

Either way, researchers at Comparitech observed that a high number of cameras in a city doesn’t necessarily mean a city is safer or has low crime.

Comparitech said that it found weak correlations after comparing the number of cameras to the indices for safety and crime in respective cities. The indices were taken from Numbeo, an online global database of statistics including the cost of living and perceived crime rates.

Assuming that Numbeo’s reports are accurate, Singapore’s crime rate is at a low 28.36 while the safety index is at a high of 71.64.

The figures are similar to Seoul, where the crime rate is at a low of 28.9 and safety at a high of 71.1. However, the South Korean capital only has nearly 38,000 cameras monitoring about 10 million people, according to Comparitech’s statistics. That’s about 4 cameras for every 1,000 people — less than a third of that in Singapore.

For Hong Kong, a frequent comparison point for Singapore, the crime and safety index are reported at 18 and 82, respectively, presuming that these figures were tabulated before the spate of protests.

Comparitech stated that the city has 50,000 cameras monitoring 7.5 million people, which is roughly 6 cameras per 1,000 individuals. That’s a better ranking in the two categories with less than half the number of cameras we’ve got in Singapore.

So what do you think? Too many CCTV cameras? Not enough? Just right? Hit us up in the comments section here or on Facebook or on Twitter @CoconutsSG to let us know what you think.

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