New public CCTV system secures Sandton Central

Issue 9 2020 Editor's Choice

The Sandton Central Management District’s (SCMD) state-of-the-art system uses artificial intelligence to detect and respond to specific events. When an incident is spotted, it sends an alert to a central control room. A real-time video feed enables control staff to take the best action. This could mean reporting a broken traffic signal, alerting the emergency services to an accident or calling law enforcement to an incident.

Scott Thorburn, chairperson of the Sandton Central Operations Committee and the Sandton Business Improvement District, remarks, “This project represents a massive amount of time, effort and input from a wide range of stakeholders and specialists. We are confident it provides a solid, but flexible, foundation from which to improve urban management, safety and crime intelligence in Sandton Central. The powerful combination of technology and human skill will create a safer neighbourhood with less disruption.”

SCMD City Improvement District (CID) manager, Elaine Jack, comments, “As a leading city, we take note of best practices abroad and locally. The people and businesses of Sandton Central expect a quality experience in their urban environment. CCTV can be a very valuable tool when it comes to ensuring public safety and urban management, and this initiative demonstrates how we are keeping pace with internationally recognised solutions to make Sandton Central better and safer.”

The launch of the system follows a three-month pilot to test its 111 cameras covering the public spaces and transport network of South Africa’s cosmopolitan business capital in order to maintain safety and security and prevent crime.

Testing began in May 2020, during the COVID-19 lockdown period when Sandton Central was operating far below its usual pace. This created an ideal opportunity to familiarise the entire team with the system and to ensure the correct response in the right instance.

There are three elements to the system, with the first being the camera feed. Vumacam is the partner responsible for installing and powering the cameras, and connecting the CCTV surveillance infrastructure to the monitoring centre.

Ricky Croock, CEO of Vumacam, remarks, "Being involved as one of the cogs in this multi-faceted project, together with the incredible SCMD project team, has helped us model and refine a superior CID-specific security and asset protection CCTV solution. The proof-of-concept results have been incredible and we look forward to seeing a marked impact on public safety and crime intelligence in Sandton Central.”

The second is surveillance monitoring, and AI Surveillance (AIS) is the partner performing this function. It uses different programs, from number plate recognition to software that detects specific behaviour patterns and anomalies, and applications that track and analyse traffic flows. The software creates visual alerts for the control room where the situation is viewed and assessed, and the right response is put into action. Sandton Central is one of several Gauteng city improvement districts monitored from the AIS central control room and, as a result, benefits from shared intelligence and collaboration.

The third element is the response. Depending on the nature of the incident, either Servest’s Sandton Central safety ambassadors, fondly called the Men in Red, or the tactical response of Night Guard Security will be sent. Both teams have a constant presence and vehicles based in Sandton Central.

Elaine Jack, City Improvement District manager of Sandton Central.

“Of course, we cannot stress enough the importance of our partnerships with SAPS and JMPD. They are essential to fighting crime and maintaining good public order, and we can’t work without them,” says Jack.

This win-win initiative is already building better relationships. Jack explains, “Leading cities across the world use this kind of technology to respond to major events and situations in real time, making policing and investigations more effective. The SAPS, JMPD and emergency services can now be assured that Sandton Central is correctly summoning them to the incidents that require their specialist service and supporting their case investigations with quality video surveillance footage to enable crime intelligence. We rely on their speedy responses and can even support this by using the cameras to navigate emergency responders around blockages in the case of disasters and disruptions.”

The CCTV cameras only capture information relevant to law enforcement investigations. In line with the Protection of Personal Information Act (POPIA) and other regulations, strict measures are in place to ensure privacy. Only those legally authorised can view footage.

This technology will help continue to maintain and ensure the safety of Sandton Central. The new CCTV system can spot broken traffic lights, visible water leaks, and cable thefts. It can also accurately identify stolen vehicles and those suspected to have been used in committing a crime, which is known to be highly effective in preventing further crimes.

“This innovation is a key private sector contribution to a smart city solution for Johannesburg. We cannot ignore the benefits of technology in urban management and safety. Our partnership is open to the city, and our new CCTV system also provides the opportunity for even more collaboration by being open to and compatible with new plug-ins,” says Jack.

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