x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Hi-tech cameras will watch cup fans

On the eve of the Club World Cup, officers roll out a new surveillance system to spot troublemakers and ensure crowd safety.

ABU DHABI // Fans attending the Fifa Club World Cup tournament, which kicks off tomorrow, could find themselves inadvertent screen stars. Every supporter at the stadiums staging matches will be subject to surveillance by Abu Dhabi Police using new hi-tech cameras. The equipment is able to capture pin-sharp images of spectators from hundreds of metres away.

Specially trained officers will operate the portable, closed-circuit television (CCTV) kits at Zayed Sports City and Mohammed bin Zayed Stadium. The monitoring equipment includes a tripod, a camera and a standard laptop. As no fixed installation is required, the gear can be easily packed up and moved to cover any area of the grounds where people are gathered. "This is a custom-designed mobile CCTV system to cover all the sports areas of the events," said 1st Lieutenant Jamal al Hosani, the head of the force's tactical affairs section.

"It's mobile, like a suitcase on wheels. It's the first time [it has been] used anywhere." The system could capture clear pictures of individuals from up to 250 metres away, said Lt al Hosani. The police declined to reveal the cost of the technology, how many surveillance kits would be distributed or how many officers were needed to operate them. "It will be enough, as many as required. We will cover it all," Lt al Hosani said, adding that the number of cameras used would vary, depending on the size of the crowds.

"We have a full set [of equipment] for each officer, and each officer is responsible for his own kit." The sold-out final on December 19 will be watched by more than 40,000 fans at Zayed Sports City. Lt al Hosani said his division designed the CCTV system over about five months. It is designed to be used alongside existing crowd safety and security procedures and will be deployed at future public events, on a smaller scale, if required.

"We can use it even for local football games," he said, noting that such matches often attracted in excess of 1,000 fans. "This is all for preparing for spectators' safety," he said. "The Fifa Club World Cup is a big event and we needed to make sure spectators have a positive experience." The cameras can provide an overview of the crowds or zoom in to focus on individuals. "It will be like how I'm seeing you in front of me," Lt al Hosani said. "We can go closer. We can detect [a subject's] face, his eye colour."

A laptop connected to the system records and saves footage in real time with pictures clear enough to be admissible evidence in court "with no doubts about identity", according to the police. If there is crowd disturbance or somebody requires medical attention, the surveillance officers will provide immediate assistance, or call in emergency services. "Once we are operating the system in the match, whatever we're seeing, like bad behaviour, we can recognise the person in a certain area and enforce the law," he said.

Although police were not anticipating any trouble, Lt al Hosani said the sight of officers operating the surveillance equipment would act as a deterrent. "We want spectators to respect the others in the match and the events," he said. "This is the first time for us to get the Fifa [Club World] Cup over here. We hope people will co-operate with Abu Dhabi Police to show respect for the country." mkwong@thenational.ae