Infrared cameras to combat bridge rock throwers

2012-10-25 00:00

AUTHORITIES are turning to technology in a bid to end the scourge of rock throwing from bridges that has proved fatal more than once in recent years.

New night-vision cameras designed to catch culprits using the cover of darkness are being installed on the Blackburn pedestrian bridge that straddles the N2, just past Umhlanga.

The South African National Roads Agency Limited said in a statement yesterday it was responding to a plea for help from police to monitor the bridge.

“To assist, we’re in the process of installing thermal [night vision] cameras on the Blackburn bridge. This new monitoring system should be implemented by mid-November,” said Logashri Sewnarain, the agency’s manager for the eastern region.

Newspapers have carried various reports in recent years about the scale of the problem, particularly in and around Durban.

Three teenagers are currently on trial in the Durban Regional Court for murder after allegedly throwing a concrete slab from the Candella Road bridge over the N3 two years ago.

Siphesihle Zuma (24), a passenger in a car driving below, was struck and died later the same evening.

In July, police began regular patrols in trouble spots after another motorist was killed by a brick thrown from a bridge over the N2 near the old Durban airport.

A flurry of reports followed after victims who survived similar incidents started coming forward.

Sewnarain said the Blackburn bridge was intended as a safe means for residents in the area to negotiate the busy freeway.

Given its iconic design, he added it was sad that people were using the facility to commit crime.

“We are looking at the design to incorporate a closure of the pedestrian screen at the bridge to stop criminals from throwing rocks and heavy objects on to the highway below. We are in the process of sourcing prices from contractors. Depending on the cost, we are looking to implement this within the next two to three months.”

Sewnarain admitted it was a tough task stopping the perpetrators, given the random nature of the crime. Various law enforcement agencies, from police to the Road Traffic Inspectorate, were relied on to curb incidents.

He said another role-player — the communities themselves — needed to do its part in addressing the problem. Until then, vigilance was advised as the best preventative measure.

“The scourge of rock throwing is a law enforcement nightmare and can only be addressed by community participation. As [the roads agency], we would advise motorists to be vigilant and be on the lookout for anyone suspicious, and if possible report it to the police immediately,” said Sewnarain.

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