Cameras zoom in on criminals in Cape suburbs

2015-11-05 10:36
(Tammy Petersen, News24)

(Tammy Petersen, News24)

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Cape Town - A seemingly innocuous bystander watches as a luxury vehicle parks near a shopping centre in Sea Point.

The driver diligently places all valuables in her boot before making her way to the nearby stores.

The bystander pretends to stretch out his arms before opening the boot, taking the woman's belongings and leaving in a waiting getaway car.

"And just like that, you are a victim of crime," said Heather Tager, chairperson of the Sea Point City Improvement District (CID).

But the opportunistic thief - who made use of a remote jammer - may be in for a surprise should he try to strike again using the same getaway car.

- Remote jamming: Watch how easy it is

The number plate of that car is now one of thousands stored on the licence plate recognition system which snaps vehicle registrations as they make their way through Sea Point.

The R1.2m system currently comprises 28 cameras which cover about 40% of the area. And plans are afoot to invest a further R1.5m to extend its reach.

The investment is financed by local businesses, the CID, residents as well as money from the ward allocation budget.

"The footage is used as evidence in criminal cases while also providing invaluable insight into crime trends and the methods used by perpetrators," Tager said.

Sea Point boasts the second biggest camera network in the city and is linked to 85 other community networks.

How it works

When a vehicle passes a camera, the registration number is recorded. If the system finds that it has been linked to a reported criminal case, an alarm sounds in the control room, explained Chris Hobbis of service provider iTrack Solutions.

An alert is then sent to responders such as neighbourhood watches, the police and CIDs.

"The system is also able to identify whether false plates are being used by linking the registration details to the vehicle's particulars," he said.

The camera system has proven invaluable in championing a proactive approach to crime, ward councillor Jacques Weber said.


He recalled an incident in which a taxi knocked over and seriously injured a pedestrian in Glengariff Road.

"The driver insisted that the robot had been green and that he had had the right of way. However, when the footage was viewed, the light was undoubtedly red. The driver was then charged with reckless and negligent driving," Weber said.

He said there was a perception that the cameras only pick up traffic infringements, but the footage was mostly used to catch criminals and assist in by-law enforcement.

Hobbis said that as neighbourhoods try to safeguard themselves from criminals, the number of community camera systems had almost doubled in the last two years.

"And as the reach continues to grow, more areas can be interconnected and benefit from the shared information. This will increase the power of this proactive system," he said.

Read more on:    cape town  |  crime

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