MOBILE cameras similar to the ones used by London police to combat crime could soon be added to the City of Cape Town’s existing arsenal of CCTV cameras.
If implemented, the cameras would be used to home in on areas with high crime rates on flashpoints of violence.
Officers from the Metropolitan Police in London, with members of the Westminster City Council, are in Cape Town assessing the city’s CCTV network.
They are here for a week, at the invitation of JP Smith, the mayoral committee member for safety and security.
Yesterday, the group met at the city’s disaster risk management centre in Goodwood, the same premises that house the transport management centre, from where the CCTV coverage is beamed on to large screens.
London has been using camera surveillance since the 1970s and has about 25 000 cameras in its network.
Smith said the city could now compare its operation with London’s “best practice”.
He highlighted London’s use of mobile cameras. This would be useful to target areas where violence suddenly flares up, he said.
He also noted how London optimally operated resources by shutting some cameras in the network down.
This meant that if there was an area where there was traditionally no activity during a certain part of the day, the camera would then not be used, Smith said.
“For instance, if there is a particular spot in CBD which goes quiet at night, the monitors can then instead focus on another camera.”
Officers in London also travelled in brightly marked surveillance vans. The vans monitored the cameras, and this was also an option Cape Town would look into, said Smith.
He said that while the city was constantly extending the roll-out of the network, it would not be ideal to increase the number of monitors. In Cape Town, 243 people monitored the 600-strong camera network.
He pointed to the one cluster in London, where three people monitored 120 cameras.
Instead, “creative ways” of picking up movement were used.
A spokeman for the UK delegation said: “We are pleased to be here at the invitation of the City of Cape Town to discuss best practice with the city and other South African municipalities on the use of CCTV. There is no monopoly on wisdom with regard to CCTV but we look forward to sharing UK’s experience, including community engagement.”
In the next financial year, cameras will be extended to the Athlone CBD, Hanover Park, Bellville, Gugulethu and Manenberg.
Between February last year and January this year, more than 500 people were arrested after being caught on the network.
There have been also 150 convictions, after the crimes were caught on camera.