Voice from the sky deters would-be criminals in city

2012-11-27 00:00

CRIMINALS or those behaving badly in the city centre be warned. They may hear a voice coming from the ether, warning them to watch their step. And no, its not film prankster Leon Schuster invading the capital city.

The Msunduzi Safe City Project has now added loud speakers to two of its existing 70 CCTV sites in the city centre to hopefully deter would-be criminals in their tracks.

The camera surveillance team, who are specially trained to identify potential troublemakers, will warn people of the presence of an undesirable character or potential crime.

They are allowed to intervene when there appears to be imminent danger. Unfortunately they are not allowed to victimise ordinary citizens, like those loitering and flirting with schoolgirls or those who are jaywalking — as tempting as it may be.

The Witness went to the Safe City control room to observe the cameras and loudspeakers in action. Watching television all day may seem like a dream job — but seeing people scratch their bottoms and talk on their cellphones is not the most gripping viewing.

The camera surveillance crew have been specially trained by a psychologist in body language and criminal behaviour.

Control room manager Jason Herbert said they develop a “sixth sense” and they know when a criminal is about to pounce. The images are recorded and the footage is used to prosecute the guilty person once the police are dispatched to the scene.

Safe City manager Lucas Holtzhausen said the cameras have lowered the crime rate in the city. “Petty crime is going down, and serious criminals are being caught red handed,” he said.

He said the public service announcements over the loudspeakers are to deter criminals and to warn people to behave in a safety conscious manner. They have already stopped a drunken fight and warned pensioners from accepting help from strangers.

The “big brother” announcement also warns Pietermaritzburg citizens that they are being watched on camera.

Holthausen said they keep up to date with technology and their latest camera on the top of the Natalia building can see as far as the Liberty Mall and to the Pietermaritzburg airport.

In the last six months they have helped get 104 people arrested for crimes ranging from mugging to drug possession. While most people wander past the speakers as the announcements are made, others do take a mild interest.

Another six speakers are planned for high density areas.

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