Cape Town – While the City of Cape Town plans to expand its CCTV camera footprint to 600 cameras by the end of the year, it has emphasised that it respects the right to privacy of its residents.
The city currently operates 564 CCTV cameras and roughly 700 free-way management cameras, which makes the city’s camera network the largest in South Africa.
Mayoral committee member for safety and social services JP Smith on Wednesday afternoon said the city used a strict protocol to guide all its surveillance activity.
"In some cases, the cameras have even been modified to prevent them from looking at certain things," Smith said.
Metro police director Barry Schuller explained to News24 that Capetonians are able to request that their properties be digitally blurred out from the city’s camera system.
"But what happens is these people have burglaries later on, and then ask the city for footage," he said.
Schuller and Smith were attending a showcase of newly installed CCTV cameras in Langa at the City of Cape Town Transport Management Centre in Goodwood.
Enhance appeal to tourists
Langa community police forum (CPF) members were offered the opportunity to view the capabilities of two new cameras, with a zoom capability of over 100m.
The cameras were installed at a cost of R1.2m and are the first to be in Langa, after three cameras have been monitoring the major roads next to the suburb for several years.
Smith explained that the cameras were a part of the development of a tourism precinct in the area.
Langa already attracted a "reasonable" amount of tourists to historical buildings and cultural activities, Smith said.
"The approach with the cameras was to make sure that the cameras would enhance, not just the safety of local residents, but that they would enhance the appeal of the area to the tourism trade, so that we could create more jobs," he said.
"Every time tourist visit there, they are spending money locally and that means people are able to earn a living in Langa, rather than leaving Langa."
'We must get our people ready to make Langa safe'
Smith said there had been 1 297 incidents of crime reported in Langa between August 2016 and May 2017, mostly on Vanguard Drive, where smash-and-grab incidents occured.
Langa CPF treasurer Ayanda Mfazwe expressed concern over the lack of police co-operation in the use of CCTV surveillance, but Smith said a police personnel member was stationed at the centre.
During the viewing of the CCTV cameras by CPF members, an alleged gangsterism incident occurred in Khayelitsha.
It could be seen how roughly five men were walking with machetes, but a police officer at the scene quickly deployed officers to the area to diffuse the situation.
Mfazwe said he would rally CPF members to ensure the CCTV operations in the suburb reached their full potential.
"We must get our people ready to make Langa safe," he said.
City of Cape Town CCTV analyst Jonathan van As told News24 that 36 private security officers manned the cameras at any given moment.
The security officers worked 12-hour shifts and switched to another CCTV station every hour, Van As said.
Unlike major European cities, the City of Cape Town currently does not use computer software to assist with surveillance.
A pilot project was underway to test computer software at the Cape Town Stadium, Van As said.
In a statement on Wednesday, the City said licence plate recognition cameras would be installed in Hout Bay, Sea Point, the Bo-Kaap and Mowbray in the next financial year.
An addition, 29 CCTV cameras would also be installed in various wards across the city, the statement reads.