Drugs, prostitution, armed robbery, rape and hijackings are just a few of the crimes that plague the downtown streets of cities like Durban, KwaZulu-Natal. Within walking distance of tourist hotspots like the picture-perfect South Beach and promenade, is a hive of dangerous criminal activity. While locals know to avoid these areas near to the Southern Freeway Bridge, tourists are particularly vulnerable, and crime levels are only getting worse.
Municipalities need to start implementing technologies in order to protect both locals and tourists. Public spaces can be made safer almost immediately with smart surveillance technology, and the adoption of CCTV camera systems is exactly the decisive step that is needed to clean up our cities streets.
Putting eyes on every street corner
The implementation of CCTV camera systems to deliver visibility into city centres like Durban and busy public spaces is the only means by which we can hope to reclaim city streets. With eyes on every corner, opportunistic crime is reduced and organised crime is inhibited. In order to be effective, it is important that surveillance systems consist of, at the very least, a combination of ultra-high definition (or ‘4K’) cameras in conjunction with a video management system (VMS) and intelligent video analytics.
While the number of cameras required to have ‘eyes’ on every nook and cranny within the Point Precinct will depend on the exact street-by-street layout, risk areas and security requirements. However, due to the nature of the public space, 4K cameras will prove vital in daytime surveillance, as these cameras can capture higher quality footage with up to four times more detail at full 25 frames per second (fps) than today’s full HD 1080p cameras. This detail is important, because this is what allows off-site security room operators who are remotely monitoring the streets to electronically zoom in to areas of the streaming video picture without losing detail, making 4K cameras ideal for public area surveillance and especially useful in post-event playback.
Crime usually happens at night whether in Johannesburg, Cape Town or Durban, and in such conditions 4K cameras require additional lighting in order to capture an adequate picture. To see through the cover of darkness, thermal cameras are advisable in open, high-risk areas. Because they are not light-dependent, their operation is not impaired by adverse weather conditions, and visibility will prove to be an effective night time crime deterrent. With the correct lens, thermal cameras are capable of providing a much wider surveillance viewpoint than conventional CCTV cameras, which means that fewer cameras will be required to monitor the same space.
Adding urgency to crime response and prevention
Unfortunately, the reality is that the authorities are alerted to crime only after the fact. This makes it critical to ensure that there is a smart central nervous system operating behind the eyes on the street and an off-site security operations centre is made vastly more efficient by bringing intelligent video analytics into the equation. When correctly configured, the VMS will monitor live streams from around the city, looking for anything out of the ordinary and issuing an automatic alert to dispatch the appropriate response teams out into the field for immediate attention. In addition to greater visibility and control, cost-conscious municipalities will benefit from an improved use of public safety resources.
Ultimately, the only way to attract investors, bring back businesses and tourists for any redevelopment plan to have any hope of success, is through security. People want to feel safe, and this requires visible surveillance measures and effective public safety response teams in order to clean up and take back our streets.
The City of eThekweni, like many other cities, has prioritised inner city revitalisation programmes to reduce crime, and attract investment and tourists back to the area, but without addressing the urgent need to tackle crime in the inner city. Here, the municipality should be taking decisive action to reclaim the streets through technologies such as CCTV, in order to offer businesses and tourists security and peace of mind.
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