Written Reply by Ms Grace Fu, Minister for Sustainability and the Environment, to Parliamentary Question on Evidence Gathering for High-rise Littering
Mr Louis Ng Kok Kwang: To ask the Minister for Sustainability and the Environment whether the Ministry can extend the evidence-gathering methods used in cases of high-rise littering to those cases that involve people smoking at their windows and balconies.
For blocks with persistent cases of high-rise littering, the National Environment Agency (NEA) will deploy surveillance cameras, where ground conditions permit, to assist in apprehending high-rise litterbugs. Using the evidence of falling litter gathered from the surveillance footage, NEA conducts further investigations through interviews with occupants of the identified residential units, and then takes enforcement actions against the offenders.
As explained at this House earlier, there is a difference between capturing the throwing of a physical object and gaseous smoke. While the optical cameras are able to capture images of a physical object, it is very challenging to capture images of transient smoke, more so smoke from cigarettes. We would therefore have to capture the act of cigarette smoking. There are privacy concerns and practical challenges when pointing surveillance cameras into homes to capture acts of people smoking at their windows and balconies. For high-rise littering enforcement, optical cameras can be deployed at ground level with cameras angled upwards, at the façade of the building. On the other hand, to capture the act of smoking at windows and balconies, the cameras will need to point and focus on the windows and balconies of the suspected units to detect the smoking act.
Besides privacy concerns arising from such deployments, the limited range of thermal cameras, which are often needed for more accurate detection, makes it harder to find suitable vantage points for deployment. In addition, it is easy for smokers to evade such camera surveillance, for example, by hiding behind curtains, window panes or pillars in their units.