CCTV camera misuse

2019-05-21 06:01
Brain Lotters (left) with Neil Jacobus say the cameras are not serving the intended purposes in their community. PHOTO: Nomzamo Yuku

Brain Lotters (left) with Neil Jacobus say the cameras are not serving the intended purposes in their community. PHOTO: Nomzamo Yuku

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Neighbourhood watches in Athlone and Grassy Park are up in arms over the way closed-circuit television cameras (CCTV) are being operated in the area.

These areas have had cameras installed to curb the crime rate, but they have been a subject for much consternation.

The City of Cape Town recently issued a statement praising the effectiveness of the cameras but not everyone seems to be convinced.

In a statement Mayco member for safety and security JP Smith said the system is an important resource in crime prevention, detection, and traffic management (“Camera footprint yield results”, People’s Post, May 7). 

The statement provided statistics on the effectiveness of the cameras between December last year and February. 

Grassy Park has a camera room that is supposed to cover different sectors in subcouncil 18, comprising wards 65, 66 and 67. The Grassy Park Community Policing Forum, Carola Neighbourhood Watch and Nita Neighbourhood Watch are supposed to benefit from the camera room.

However, they all are crying foul, adding they do not agree with Smith’s statement, saying the ineffective areas were not considered.

Carola and Nita claim although cameras were already in existence, the effectiveness has not improved, despite the launch of the camera room late last year. 

Both NHWs lament the lack of manpower and operational planning. They claim they were told by Subcouncil 18 chairperson Shanen Rossouw that they were all benefitting and taking turns to monitor the cameras.

In January, Rossouw confirmed that total control of the camera operation room was handed over to the neighbourhood watches from her area.

“I told them in the council and CPF meeting, because they expect other neighbourhood watches to watch their cameras, if they do not want to monitor their own cameras then I will take out the cameras,” she said in a previous interview (“Confusion over cameras”, People’s Post, 29 January). 

The watches made a suggestion to the authorities that the camera room be linked to the main centre in Goodwood or that it should also be equipped as the main centre.

“We have jobs and families to look after,” says Neil Jacobus, the chairperson of Carola Neighbourhood Watch. “On top of that we volunteer our time to patrol the streets in the evenings, mostly on weekends,” he says.

Another member Brian Lotters says after realising the cameras inefficiencies, he asked to see some footage.

“I noticed that the spotlight on the field between Plantation School and Joanne Road was preventing you to see down Helena Road at night, if that was monitored then that should have been picked up,” says Lotters.

Philip Bam, spokesperson for the Grassy Park CPF, confirms Carola complained about crime happening under the camera not being attended to.

“These cameras are not under the control of the police. The CPF believes that all municipal cameras should be monitored in the Metro Police camera room,” says Bam.

Madjie Moos, chairperson of Nita Watch, says they are also experiencing the same problems and hopes the City takes the matter seriously. 

Responding to concerns of the Carola Watch, Smith acknowledged that complaints were received from Carola Watch regarding the control centre not being monitored on a 24-hour basis and these were dealt with by Rossouw. 

Smith agrees that the cameras are not monitored on a 24-hour basis. 

“The cameras do however continue recording throughout, in case recordings are required in criminal matters,” says Smith.

He says linking the camera room to Goodwood would be a long-term solution, as the cost to connect to a Metro Police control centre is currently too prohibitive.

Athlone CPF chairperson Aziza Kannemeyer says a few cameras were installed within their sector last year, but have not made any difference, despite addressing their concerns with the City.

Kannemeyer adds, the City has to relook at the operation of these cameras and consider suggestions made by law enforcement agencies in communities because “they are the people on the ground and know their communities even better.”

Meanwhile, Smith says due to the expansion of the CCTV network and the interest shown by the NHWs, the Metro Police strategic surveillance unit (SSU) is exploring the possibility of installing resources at the Grassy Park control centre in the next two months to ensure 24-hour camera monitoring. 

Smith says the SSU has a tender in place and executed the project with ward allocation funds provided by the councillor. Smith confirms the City spent R1 350 000 between July 2015 and June 2018 on camera projects.

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