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SA

Intelligent cameras to bring down crime

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JORDAN MOSHE

The company behind this is fibre-infrastructure company Vumatel whose idea it was to provide ultra-high-definition footage to security companies with the aim of reducing crime.

Community Active Protection (CAP) – the brainchild of Chief Rabbi Dr Warren Goldstein – is already using it and achieving great results. CAP, a non-profit security organisation, was founded in 2006 in the wake of several tragedies in the community. Having grown exponentially around Johannesburg, CAP’s operations include armed response and patrols, ensuring a comprehensive approach to crime prevention.

“In the past seven months, we’ve had 45 operational successes,” says CAP Chief Operating Officer Sean Jammy. “From arresting suspects to obtaining and verifying information about missing vehicles, the system has helped us. The footage it captures enables us to interrogate information after an incident has occurred, and better plan how to approach it.”

CAP used the Vumacam (the camera offshoot of Vumatel) fibre network infrastructure to install its own cameras to cover areas in which it operates, including Glenhazel, Norwood, Waverley, Sydenham, and other predominantly Jewish suburbs in Johannesburg.

The Vumacam system consists of a network of close to 1 000 cameras covering 48 suburbs. Vumacam has in the past 12 months installed cameras in more than 48 northern suburbs, including Melville, Dunkeld, Craighall Park, Bryanston, Emmarentia, Morningside, and Illovo. Sporting at least two cameras, each pole features a camera which monitors its surroundings as well as one which is equipped to recognise licence plates.

“The network of cameras can help us get a better understanding of the security in our community,” says Jammy. “Although they are only one component of a bigger security solution, they add another layer of security which helps us keep the community safe.”

Having identified the benefits of such a system in 2006, CAP found that the technology available then couldn’t deliver the security solution it sought. Reopening the idea in 2015 and creating its own CCTV monitoring product, it found the system contributed greatly to combating crime. It led to the organisation’s eventual decision to expand its operation using Vumacam’s service.

“We wanted to find a company that ticked all the boxes for us,” says Jammy. “Issues surrounding data management, the storage of information, ease of access, and protection of privacy were all vital. Vumacam satisfied our criteria, so we commissioned it to erect our cameras using its infrastructure. Our analytics team determined the best locations at which to position them, and we went ahead with the setup.”

Jammy says that the camera rollout proved successful very quickly in terms of crime fighting, contributing to the company’s operational effectiveness.

Although there have been complaints regarding invasion of privacy, the feedback CAP has received from the community has been mostly positive so far, he says. “The only complaints we’ve received are from people who also want cameras on their own streets. We understand that Johannesburg has its risks, and we want the community to feel safe at all times.”

Jammy emphasises the company’s reputation for adherence to ethics. “We deal with the information the system gives us in strictest confidentiality, and actually need a very good reason to access the footage itself. We do not record any private spaces. Live footage can be viewed when a possible issue is flagged, and while we can view footage after the fact, we can watch it but not download it.”

Jammy says the camera network is no silver bullet, but is just one part of a wider security system that CAP uses to tackle crime. “These cameras have their limitations. They are only really effective when partnered with a CAP vehicle and response team. However, they do offer the potential for us to take our service to new levels, and help us better grapple with crimes of all kinds.”

As the network’s capabilities and size increase, companies like CAP will be able to allocate their resources more effectively, and focus on their core security business. “For security companies like CAP to set up a system like this by themselves is a challenge,” says Vumacam Chief Executive Ricky Croock. “With Vumacam focusing on the infrastructure and offering a ready-to-use product, security companies can not only limit their expenses, but devote their time and efforts to security concerns.

“On the whole, the network has been a tremendous success, resulting in four to five arrests each week, successful vehicle identification, and a decrease in the crime rate overall,” says Croock. “With the development of this project, different companies can work together and combat crime on a broader scale.

“We’ve engaged with more than 100 companies, including armed-response teams, cash-in-transit groups, and tracking companies. By collaborating in our efforts, we can improve the effectiveness of the methods used to combat crime and have a bigger impact on the country’s safety.”

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