Vumacam AI surveillance helps police corner criminals

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Video management provider Vumacam has received praise for its artificial intelligence (AI)-based surveillance system from Fourways Joint Operations Centre following the arrest of suspected criminals this week.

The four suspects were arrested on William Nicol Drive after an extensive high-speed car chase that started in the Johannesburg CBD.

The SAPS Flying Squad first spotted a suspicious vehicle with four occupants in the Johannesburg CBD and began pursuit of the vehicle, which managed to evade the SAPS unit. SAPS immediately contacted off-site monitoring firm AI Surveillance to keep a lookout for the vehicle.

The vehicle’s details were then added to the VOI (Vehicle of Interest) database.

Shortly afterwards, the vehicle triggered a VOI alert on a Vumacam pole in Parktown North which alerted security company 24/7, which immediately dispatched a vehicle to intercept the vehicle. The alert was also sent in real-time to the SAPS and JMPD via the E2 War Room (E2 is the Business Against Crime SA’s Eyes & Ears Project) which sent the SAPS Flying Squad into a high-speed chase of the vehicle.

Jean Berdou, leader of the Fourways Joint Operations Centre, says: “We are delighted with the highly-effective Vumacam LPRs [licence plate recognition] working together with all our integrated area response teams, SAPS Flying Squad and the JMPD. Fourways Joint Operations Centre is proudly associated with Vumacam and we will work together to make our precincts safer for all.”

Vumacam CEO Ricky Croock comments: “The arrests highlight the immense importance of Vumacam’s advanced technology in the fight against South Africa’s serious violent crime epidemic.

“The network effect provided by our cameras across the Johannesburg metro area is an invaluable safety net which enables our partners to deploy their resources in an effective, targeted manner. If our cameras had not been there, the culprits would have evaded police and gone off the grid.

“Our platform enabled a highly-effective and co-ordinated response from SAPS, AI Surveillance and 24/7 and other security companies – together with the Fourways Joint Operations Centre – to secure a positive outcome. We look forward to seeing law enforcement’s continued successes from our growing network as we enhance our tech support offering to assist them in making South Africa’s cities safer.”

The company previously faced criticism after international media reported Vumacam is building a nationwide surveillance network that scrutinises peoples' movements for “unusual behaviour”.

The report by VICE said Vumacam had been quietly assembling a “smart” CCTV surveillance network in the suburbs of Johannesburg, which is now driving AI-powered apartheid in South Africa.

“CCTV behaviour detection systems would disproportionately flag black and brown people, because AI is often imbued with bias by the small and homogeneous groups of engineers who create it,” reads the VICE report.

Vumacam denied the accusation.

The company said the majority of its customers use software called iSentry and the system is completely non-biased.

“It is not pre-programmed to identify race. Unlike many other behavioural analytics software, iSentry is one of only a few that does not have any preprograming of what is deemed to be unusual behaviour, thus removing any forms of programmed-in bias.”

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