Evtec Management Services Pte Ltd - 'Virtual Guards' Foil Metal Thieves, Saving SLA $1.87 Million
The Singapore Land Authority (SLA) responsible for management of state owned property hinders the rampant looting by metal thieves by 87 per cent. Six months upon deployment of "virtual guards" – motion activated closed circuit television (CCTV) cameras – a technology provided by Evtec Management, has saved SLA $1.87 million. On a 24-hour alert, the "virtual guards" transmits footage only when movement is detected, prompting staff to be more productive and efficient.
But add all the losses, courtesy of metal thieves who see vacant government properties as easy targets, and the bill for reinstatement works can run into millions for the Singapore Land Authority (SLA).
To stop the pilfering that has been rampant on state property, the SLA decided to deploy "virtual guards" — motion-activated closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras.
Six months on, the move has paid off handsomely. Metal theft on state properties has dropped by 87 per cent, saving the agency about $1.87 million in reinstatement works, such as replacing wiring, lightning conductors and manhole covers.
The SLA, custodian of about 100 vacant government properties and 5,000 state buildings, spent $2.1 million to replace stolen items in the six months before the virtual guards were used, said Ms Susan Koh, SLA's corporate communications manager.
"By leveraging on technology, we have enhanced the effectiveness and efficiency of our security measures," Miss Koh said.
And the virtual security system costs about $3,000 a month for each property — about half the cost of deploying round-the-clock security guards, said Mr. Ken Pereira, chief executive of Evtec Security, one of three firms that provide the system to SLA.
Cost savings come in other forms: After metal looters strike, reinstatement works can sometimes take months — resulting in loss of leasing fees on the affected properties during that period.
Mr. Pereira said the key to bringing down metal theft is detection and quick response — things security guards may not be able to offer all the time, especially at large sites.
"Security guards can only be at a particular place at any one point of time. It's easy for metal thieves to spot their patrolling patterns and exploit loopholes," he said.
Apart from being more effective than alarms installed at fences or gates — even the rustling of leaves can activate the cameras — the CCTVs used by these security firms are also more efficient.
For example, although Evtec has more than 1,000 CCTVs installed at the various premises of its clients, only 11 staff members are needed to monitor surveillance footage at the command centre over a daily 24-hour shift. This is because the cameras only transmit footage when there is movement on the premises, said Mr. Pereira.
"It's not logical to expect your staff to notice everything when they have to watch so many monitor screens for long periods," he said. "Security has to be 24-hour and working all the time. It is costly and ineffective to be manpower-intensive."
Evtec's patrol teams, which conduct random checks on the premises, sometimes with guard dogs, will be notified immediately when there are intrusions.
The SLA is now embarking on an awareness campaign to share with various government agencies on ways to foil metal thieves, such as notifying neighbourhood police centres when tenants are vacating premises. With the prices of metals, such as copper and aluminum especially copper, rising worldwide, metal theft-related cases has been on the rise in Singapore. In the first nine months of this year alone, there were 1,014 cases, with metal thieves making away with some $4.5 million worth of items. There were 1,092 such cases for the whole of last year, involving $3.8 million worth of stolen goods.
Recently, metal thieves have even started to steal lightning conductor strips and metal signage in housing estates. But like the SLA, some town councils have started to take counter-measures to stop the metal thieves in their tracks.
A Jurong Town Council spokesman told Today that the measures included embedding lighting conductor strips and welding brass covers to fire-riser lugs.
Also, the new Second-hand Goods Dealers Act, which kicks in on Dec 1, will make it easier for the police to track down metal thieves. Under the new Act, second-hand dealers in goods like scrap metal can only use crossed cheques to pay the sellers.