S'pore universities, polys explore motion sensors and other tech devices to deter voyeurs

25 Apr 2021

Straits Times, 25 Apr 2021, S'pore universities, polys explore motion sensors and other tech devices to deter voyeurs
SINGAPORE - Communal toilets in hall residences at the Nanyang Technological University (NTU) will be fitted with motion detectors this month to deter trespassers.

The pilot project, initiated by the Nanyang Neighbourhood Police Centre (Jurong Police Division), was announced in an e-mail to hall residents on April 8.

These motion detectors make a sound each time they sense movement, alerting occupants to the presence of others in the toilet.

An NTU spokesman said the detectors will complement other existing security measures at the residential halls, including closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras in common areas and security patrols.

The recent spate of on-campus sex offences has worried society at large.

Between February and July 2018, an NTU psychology undergraduate had taken 469 obscene videos of women, both on and off campus. He was jailed for nine months and three weeks last September.

At the National University of Singapore (NUS), a chemistry undergraduate was caught taking an upskirt video of a woman on campus in March 2017, and later found to have taken obscene videos of 104 women. He was sentenced to 28 weeks' jail last August.

NTU students told The Straits Times that some of the toilets on campus had already been fitted with the motion detectors, which make a bell-like sound each time someone enters or exits.

Ms Francine Ho, 21, a second-year communications student, said she feels safer with the motion detectors, especially since the electronic lock on the toilet door on her floor is faulty.

She said: "With all the predators nowadays, it can be quite dangerous because you can't tell who is in the toilet with you. But with the bell, you're more aware of your surroundings."

While students felt the project had its benefits, others disagreed.

Ms Wang Fangci, 22, a third-year business and accountancy student, said the motion detector in the communal toilet on her floor was placed in a way that it kept ringing whenever someone stood at the sink next to the door.

She added: "Even if it rings, I can't tell whether it's a guy or girl who enters the toilet, so it doesn't help much."

Ms Wang said she thought the CCTV cameras installed at toilet entrances were a better deterrent, as the footage could help identify perpetrators.

In response, an NTU spokesman told ST the students' feedback will be considered, and adjustments to the placements will be made where necessary.

He added: "No one single measure is wholly sufficient. The movement sensors are part of an overall suite of security measures at NTU's residential halls, to provide a safe and secure living environment for our students."

Security experts told ST video analytics and facial recognition software might be effective in fighting voyeurism. Mr Isaac Thomas Raj, second managing director of security agency TwinRock Global, said CCTV cameras with facial recognition could identify the gender of an individual entering or leaving the toilet, alerting campus security.

He also proposed the use of facial detection software, which enables security teams to track the location of each individual on the premises through CCTV cameras, as this could help swiftly identify the voyeur in case of an incident.

A joint statement from the five local polytechnics said they will explore using new technologies, like facial recognition and video analytics, to further enhance existing security measures to improve on-campus safety for their campus community.

At NUS, besides CCTV surveillance and security patrols, regular security inspections of campus restrooms are also conducted.

Its NUS Care Unit also runs outreach activities to educate students and staff about respect, appropriate behaviour and consent.

The Singapore Management University has CCTV cameras installed at strategic locations across campus, and at restroom entrances, to deter voyeurs, along with security checks, posters and warning signs.

The Singapore University of Technology and Design conducts regular security patrols, CCTV surveillance, and controls access to blocks and toilets to ensure safety.