Cape Town in R48m tech offensive to tackle crime

Simnikiwe Mzekandaba
By Simnikiwe Mzekandaba, IT in government editor
Johannesburg, 24 Apr 2023

Cape Town’s tech-driven fight against crime will receive a further boost this financial year, with the city earmarking R48 million in additional funding for various tech interventions.

Providing an update on the ongoing crime-fighting efforts, the city’s safety and security directorate notes this is part of the proposed R432 million capital budget for 2023/24.

Resultantly, the funding will go towards additional and replacement closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras around the city in the new financial year, as well as gunshot detection technology.

In addition, the directorate targets procuring 400 body cams, 50 dashboard cameras, 10 fixed cameras and 20 mobile cameras.

The directorate indicates its rollout plan advises on priority areas for CCTV installations, engagement with key stakeholders like the South African Police Service, businesses and NPOs, guidelines for the usage of data in determining CCTV locations, partnerships with private CCTV owners and a standard operating procedure for infrastructure installation.

“The increased use of digital tools has long been on the cards, and we want to accelerate its implementation to see how it can best serve our enforcement needs, and make our city safer,” says alderman JP Smith, mayoral committee member for safety and security.

“Already, we are seeing very good results with the dashboard cameras that are in use, helping to track down stolen vehicles, or vehicles used in the commission of a crime, and of course, motorists with outstanding warrants and more.

“The body cameras will provide digital evidence to assist in the prosecution of offenders, but can also increase officer safety, improve situational awareness and can also serve as a safeguard for the public, as well as our staff, particularly where claims are made.”

Over the past few years, the city has been vocal about adopting an intelligence-driven policing approach, introducing numerous technological advancements.

Among these, the city has introduced handheld digital devices linked to the emergency policing incident control system that fast-tracks the logging of incidents, issuing of fines and allows for photographic evidence to be uploaded.

In 2021, the city revealed its investment in its CCTV surveillance cameras were making good gains, detecting over 15 000 criminal incidents in the previous (2020) financial year.

Furthermore, in 2021, Cape Town's traffic service indicated it will use automated number plate recognition (ANPR) technology to boost its law enforcement efforts.

According to the city’s directorate, the ANPR tech has proven “invaluable”, particularly to the traffic service’s highway patrol unit that was launched in November 2022.

It therefore plans to procure more advanced dashboard cameras with ANPR functionality during the 2023/24 financial year.

In terms of unmanned aerial vehicles, commonly referred to as drones, the directorate indicates it is using a transversal city tender to deploy drones during enforcement and emergency operations, while it completes the process of acquiring its remote operating certificate from the Civil Aviation Authority.

Over the longer term, the vision is to establish an aviation unit within its safety and security function, it states.

“We live in an ever-changing world, and it is imperative to supplement boots on the ground with the necessary tools to fight crime and lawlessness head on,” adds Smith.

“Our draft budget caters for more staff, ongoing training and associated resources like vehicles, uniforms and firearms. The ongoing investment in digital tools and advancements will provide a very useful boost to our overall deliverables.”