Eye on street cameras

Private Property South Africa
Belinda Mountain

Street security cameras are the latest crime-fighting initiative in Johannesburg’s suburbs.

With increased pressure on the South African Police Service – and with fewer resources at their disposal – to fight crime in Johannesburg, the city’s suburbs are coming together to implement their own security measures.

Ashleigh Parry, MD: CSS Tactical, says that the suburb of Dunkeld already has 59 street security cameras in place and 80 deployed in Craighall and Craighall Park as part of Phase 1 and 50 more planned for Phase 2.

Atholl, Inanda, Illovo, Winston Ridge and Elton Hill are following suit: CSS has just rolled out 24 cameras in the first phase of their security upgrade. The suburb will eventually have 86 overview cameras and nine license plate recognition (LPR) cameras. LPR cameras can detect and flag number plates in the system, either for further investigation or for immediate response from a tactical unit on the ground.

But how do security cameras actually help in beating crime? Ashleigh cites a recent example of an attempted hijacking in Pitts Street in Dunkeld West, where camera footage assisted the SAPS and CSS in their investigations and led to the arrest of the two suspects.

The cameras employ an “intelligent” software system called iSentry that “learns” the behaviour of the environment and alerts CSS when it picks up on unusual behaviour or loitering. This helps CSS to respond immediately and effectively.

Wendy McAllister, deputy: Craigpark Residents’ Association (CRA) says that the software recently helped catch a suspected cat burglar in Hamilton Avenue. “He was detained overnight, but because the affected residents did not press charges, he was eventually released,” she says.

So how was this multimillion-rand initiative funded? Ashleigh says that Fibrehoods installed the fibre-optic cables, which allow for quicker and more consistent transfer of camera feeds. “The initial outlay of funds to install the camera systems was provided by CSS Tactical and, as part of an agreement between CSS and the CRA, was passed on as an increase in the armed-response fee of residents, which will eventually cover the cost.”

Time will tell if these measures will reduce crime. Meanwhile, they are an example of just how proactive residents and security companies have become in fighting suburban crime.

This article originally appeared in Neighbourhood, Sunday Times.

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