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City of Cape Town scoffs at R32m gun tech wastage claims

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The City of Cape Town has scoffed at suggestions that the metropolitan squandered millions of rands on gunshot detection technology, ShotStopper, as it has failed to help reduce gun violence.

The city shrugged off the criticism, saying the technology has been effective and the metro will continue to use the service in fighting related crimes.

The system, acquired by the City of Cape Town at a cost of R32 million in 2016, became the subject of debate this week, with critics questioning the efficacy of ShotStopper, claiming it is not cut out to reduce gun violence in Cape Town.

ShotSpotter is gunfire detection technology that uses sensors to isolate the sound of gunfire and alert the police. It was deployed in the city to help reduce the scourge of gun violence, which has plagued it for years.

This week, during a radio interview on Cape Talk, Eldred De Klerk, a policing expert and a director of the African Centre for Security and Intelligence Praxis, disapproved of the use of the technology, saying the body count from gun violence in the city shows it has not been effective in reducing crime.

The ShotStopper debate comes at a time when use of technology in law enforcement and crime prevention is on the increase across the world.

Fault-finding

In the radio interview on Monday, De Klerk said ShotStopper had not been effective in curbing gun violence and must be canned, and the budget redirected to initiatives that will help reduce gun-related crimes.

“I would shelve the programme [ShotStopper] altogether. Call it quits, say this is what we've learnt from it, and start investing in the essential, city-based activities that allow for a better quality of life, and allow for the controlling of everything from spaza shops, to SMEs that are not registered, because those are the little opportunities both making people money, but also for selling illicit goods, money laundering, and all those sort of things.”

Additionally, De Klerk said: “When ShotSpotter was bought, the process of acquiring that technology at that expense was never really a part of the big public debate. For me, it's an issue of good public governance; it was money spent from the public purse, money that should've been accounted for, and money that should've been negotiated before the spend. Now it's been silently shelved without any public process.”

Worthy investment?

Responding to these allegations, Eckardt Winks, executive support officer in the City of Cape Town’s Safety and Security Directorate, dismissed suggestions that the gun technology had been a failure.

“The ShotSpotter gunfire detection system added huge value, hence the starting of the process to reinstate it,” he said.

Access to the gunfire detection system came to an end in April 2019 and the City’s Metro Police Department recommended that a new tender be initiated.

“It is our intention to expand the original footprint, which covered the seven square kilometres of Hanover Park and Manenberg, to a much larger area and several more gang violence hotpots. The city envisages that a new tender will be in place by the end of this year, subject to the completion of the tender process.”

In an interview with ITWeb yesterday, Winks said not only did the system allow for a more frequent response to gunshots, it also meant a faster and more accurate response.

He explained: “The city also used the statistics and crime intelligence from the system to analyse timeframes and patterns of shootings in order to deploy enforcement agencies to a specific area to execute searches.

“All of the above made the gunfire detection system well worth the investment. When we assessed its value to determine whether it should be reinstated after the initial pilot programme, it was estimated that the system increased our firearm recover rate five times over. From 2016 until April 2019, 19 721 gunshots were detected through ShotSpotter, and 68 firearms were recovered.”

According to Winks, the efficacy of ShotSpotter is not in doubt, as 40% of all the firearms recovered in the entire city were recovered in the seven square kilometres where the gunfire detection system was operational.

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