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Gunshot detection helps cops’ response time and with taking guns off Cape streets

Alderman JP Smith explained how technology has helped to fight crime. Picture: Supplied

Alderman JP Smith explained how technology has helped to fight crime. Picture: Supplied

Published May 5, 2023


Cape Town - The City of Cape Town demonstrated a quick response to shootings as they used the latest gunshot detection technology.

During a media briefing on Thursday, the officers at the Goodwood Disaster and Risk Management building were alerted to shots fired in Manenberg.

The programme could tell exactly where the shots were fired and within two minutes Leap officers and metro police were at the scene.

Safety and Security Mayco member JP Smith said: “There were two shots which were fired, and we used the drones to get the view of Jordan Street and Great Fish Avenue.

“We alerted the officers on the ground, seven vehicles were dispatched to the scene and they managed to get a tip-off about the suspects.”

Mayor Geordin Hill-Lewis said that in the past the officers would not have easily reached the shooting scene.

“Within two minutes the officers responded. Without this technology, we would not have been able to get there as fast, and we would have had to rely on the community to inform us, if they would,” he said.

Acoustic gunshot detection systems went live in Hanover Park in December, when 21 firearms and 288 rounds of ammunition were recovered, resulting in 32 arrests.

In Manenberg, from February to April, 11 firearms and 101 rounds of ammunition were recovered and 16 people were arrested.

In Lavender Hill, on April 7, the first firearm confiscation and related arrest occurred, and more areas will benefit from this.

The City is investing about R860 million over three years in technology such as CCTV, drones, dashcams, aerial surveillance, acoustic gunshot detection, and the master digital system to co-ordinate it all in real-time – known as EPIC.

Hill-Lewis said: “The City is installing gunshot detection, targeting specific gang violence hot spots in consultation with the South African Police Services (SAPS).

“This follows a successful pilot programme in Hanover Park and Manenberg for just over three years, which resulted in a significant reduction in shooting incidents, number of shots per incident, and an increased recovery of illegal guns in these areas.

“The technology – known as SoundThinking (formerly ShotSpotter) – identifies the sound of gunfire, giving law enforcement authorities the ability to immediately pinpoint territorial battles erupting between rival gangs.

“Previously, violence flare-ups would only become known to SAPS once the body count began rising. However, now the City is able to gain strategic information in real-time to share with police, enabling authorities to concentrate resources into stabilising an area a lot faster.”

The mayor said the City was focusing on the areas which were affected by gun violence.

Over time, the City will have aerial surveillance as an additional ‘eye in the sky’ to the audio alerts provided by the gunshot detection technology, and it will provide a better view of all areas in the metro.

“The City’s continued investment in technology to supplement existing enforcement efforts is well documented, but meaningful change can only happen when all levers of the criminal justice system are working together.

“Resources and intelligent policing will get arrests, as we see from our weekly enforcement efforts, but without swift convictions, these efforts come to naught.

“The gunshot detection technology relies on quick responses, to be effective. The City has increased its resources in many of the crime hot spots since the technology was first piloted, through the introduction of Leap.

“We are also working closely with SAPS to ensure we have as many enforcement resources to help us fully exploit the technology,” Smith said.

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Cape Argus