The City of Cape Town is using a network of 1 600 close- circuit television (CCTV) cameras in a bid to prevent and detect crime, as well as monitor other incidents.
The network is one of the largest of its kind in Africa.
Between December 2018 and February 2019, the city’s CCTV cameras detected 4 211 incidents, of which 36% were of a criminal nature, the City of Cape Town said at a briefing on Tuesday.
During this time, 64 people were arrested on a range of charges, including possession of drugs, breaking in to properties, driving under the influence of alcohol and cable theft. In the latest cable theft arrests, four suspects with over 400 m of stolen cable were apprehended in two different incidents.
"Our CCTV system has become an important resource in crime prevention, crime detection and traffic management.
"The city’s Strategic Surveillance Unit (SSU) forms part of the Metro Police Department which oversees the procurement and installation of the technology. The SSU network is on average 85% to 90% operational which is the international benchmark for camera functionality,' said Mayoral Committee Member for Safety and Security JP Smith.
During a visit to the camera control room in Goodwood, in Cape Town, journalists were shown visuals of a smash and grab incident, as well as heavily armed men running through a neighbourhood. The high definition cameras also pick up on other incidents. These include accidents, burst water pipes and street lights that are out of order.
There are two nerve centres, one in Goodwood and the other in central Cape Town.
Metropolitan Police Department Superintendent Kevin Cole said the city was also doing successful work in automatic licence plate recognition, as well as ongoing testing in other areas.
"The CCTV system also provides valuable intelligence and data for investigations that are carried out by law enforcement agencies. It's not just an efficient means of surveillance but also, if the need arises, a good source of forensic data," said Smith.
He said there was an increasing focus on bringing in analysts.
“It’s pointless only staring at the screens. This must be intelligence-driven. People need to know what they are looking for.”
During the tour, one staff member was clearly looking for muggings in an area known for this.
A pool of 120 CCTV operators have several responsibilities, ranging from operating and monitoring the surveillance screens, reporting incidents as evidence and of potentially contacting the police and emergency services.
The operators are trained in the use of the cameras for crime prevention and detection, traffic management, by-law infringements, fire detection and prevention and general area management.
The centre links to the South African Police Service, Metro Police, and increasingly, neighbourhood watches. There are 50 000 members of neighbourhood watches in and around Cape Town.
“We have double the number of neighbourhood watch members patrolling our streets as we have police and metro police [officers],” said Smith.
“We are bringing neighbourhood watches closer to us. They see how we coordinate things and we show them the cameras in their areas. They get excited when they see the work that is being done,” added Cole.
Smith said private security firms were also valuable, as they "sit on massive amounts of crime intelligence".
He said the city would like to roll out more cameras in crime hot spots, as well as to more areas, although the cameras are dependent on a fibre network.
“As the fibre network grows, so will our ability to extend our footprint.”
Smith said the city was negotiating with the education department about linking the cameras to schools, which are vulnerable to crime, particularly in areas known for gangsterism. It was also an opportunity to leverage the fibreoptic connectivity of schools to roll out cameras within surrounding communities.
The City of Cape Town’s CCTV network comprises 239 CCTV cameras in the Freeway Management System, 713 in the Integrated Rapid Transit System and 648 in the SSU.