Drivers in Durg, Chhattisgarh, are on their best behaviour these days — they have started obeying traffic rules, avoid road rage and mind their language while talking to the police.
Quite a turnaround for the city, which until recently, topped the charts for violating traffic norms.
The trigger for the change? Smarter traffic monitoring. Policemen in Durg are now using ‘body-worn cameras’ — cameras strapped to their uniforms — for effective monitoring of traffic violations. These all-weather cameras facilitate recording of interactions between police officers and citizens.
Policemen in Durg are now using ‘body-worn cameras’ — cameras strapped to their uniforms — for effective monitoring of traffic violations
“The cameras capture 360-degree video. Recordings cannot be deleted or edited by lower-rung officials,” says Santosh Kumar, additional superintendent of police (traffic), Durg.
“Traffic violations are down 30% since the cameras were introduced,” says SP (traffic) K B Mishra.
Besides curbing traffic violations, the idea was also to bring transparency in the traffic policing system and stop cops from taking bribes. “The camera is operated by the officer who’s wearing it. He/she can turn it off. When someone misbehaves with us, we turn them on, so we can produce evidence to prove our point,” says Satish Thakur, traffic DSP, Durg.
The locals don’t want to be caught on the wrong foot. ‘Don’t mess with the Durg traffic police,” is the advice motorists in the city have for each other. Pradeep Swami, a resident of Durg, says, “Earlier, when cops stopped us (riders) and we asked them to show us proof of violation, they had nothing to show. Now they show us the camera recording.”
“Earlier, when cops stopped us (riders) and we asked them to show us proof of violation, they had nothing to show. Now they show us the camera recording” — Pradeep Swami, a resident of Durg
Dev Sharan Singh, in-charge of traffic zone 1 in Durg, says the decision to acquire the cameras was taken in December 2016. In February this year, eight cameras were bought, at a cost of Rs 50,000 each, with funds sanctioned by the director general of police (DGP) headquarters. At present, they are being used by traffic cops posted at eight roundabouts in Durg.
The cameras have not only curbed bribe taking, but have also been of great help in nabbing motorists jumping red lights. “People are also behaving better with policemen — they don’t get into unnecessary arguments when told that their violations have been recorded on camera,” says Singh.
Each ‘body-worn camera’ weighs 150gm, has a two-inch colour display screen, and is connected directly to the traffic police control system. The cameras run for six hours straight once fully charged. They have been bought from state capital Raipur and have a warranty of two years. The district police is planning to buy 50 more such cameras to improve traffic monitoring in Durg.
“People are also behaving better with policemen — they don’t get into unnecessary arguments when told that their violations have been recorded on camera” — Dev Sharan Singh, in-charge of traffic zone 1 in Durg
Traffic cops have also been issued swipe machines to enable erring motorists to pay fines by swiping their credit or debit cards. Eliminating cash payment removes the opportunity window for motorists to avoid fines by bribing the police.
Maintaining the cameras is the responsibility of the crime and criminal tracking networking systems (CCTNS) department of the Durg police. “Till date, none of the cameras have developed any technical snag. They are easy to use,” says Mishra.
Durg traffic police came to know of the cameras after the Ujjain traffic police used body-worn cameras during the Samistha Festival. Similar initiatives have been taken in Karnataka in the cities of Bengaluru and Mysore.
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Lead visual: Angela Anthony Pereira Photograph: 101Reporters Photos The ‘Tech Meets Bharat’ series brings to you stories on how technology is impacting and changing lives in hinterland India. Hitesh Sharma is a Durg-based independent journalist and Samantha Machado is a Manipal, Karnataka based journalist. Both are member of 101Reporters.com, a pan-India network of grassroots reporters.