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Keeping an Eye on Big Brother

Police chiefs in Bangkok have finally entered the modern era by incorporating modern technology into their fight against crime. But while this new initiative has led to a drastic reduction of criminal activity, some cops on the frontline have been less than enthusiastic. Find out why here...

Bangkok’s Chinatown district of Yaowarat has become a safer place thanks to local police chiefs’ decision to use global positioning system (GPS) technology to monitor the whereabouts and activities of their cops on the beat. Tracking devices have been installed in police motorcycles and cars for the last 6 months with great effect.

While the official police line is that GPS technology leads to a faster response time by allowing the officers nearest a reported crime to be dispatched, there is a much simpler reason why it is being so effective – and why it was initially met with resistance by a section of the local constabulary.

Many of the cops in the district felt that the use of GPS to monitor their movements was an intrusion – that they were being spied upon because their bosses didn’t trust them. No shit, Sherlock!

It had long been known that most of the cops “on patrol” were spending their days guarding local bars and snooker halls instead of protecting and serving the local populace. Thanks to GPS technology, this is no longer possible and the beat-dodging cops are being forced onto the streets where their increased visibility has had a major effect on the local crime rate.

During the 6 months that the system has been in operation, thefts of cars and motorcycles in the area have dropped off to practically zero. Previously, an average of two motorcycles and one car was stolen every month in the district.

The results speak for themselves and certainly seem to substantiate the claim that many on-duty cops were failing to pound their beat before the GPS was implemented.

Showing true understanding of Thai culture, Pol. Lt. Col. Thanupong explained to the Bangkok Post how he had to take a fatherly approach with his officers when the system was introduced.

He told how he had to win the officers over by claiming that the system was to help them plan their routes better and to prove that they were doing a good job – not because they were mistrusted.

To many westerners, it may seem incredible that adult police officers have to be wheedled into doing what they are paid to do, but this is Thailand.  The end justifies the means and Pol. Lt. Col. Thanupong should be commended for his initiative and tact.

Now, if we could just get the cops to investigate the crimes that have been committed…

Paul Snowdon – July 12, 2009

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