Integrated solution secures Port Elizabeth

April 2010 CCTV, Surveillance & Remote Monitoring

CBD surveillance is four years down the line in Port Elizabeth. We spoke with Gary Johnson, MD of Afrisec, the company behind the establishment of camera technology in the city, about the challenges and success that this technology has brought with it.

The Port Elizabeth CBD surveillance story began in 2006 with the installation of 28 CBD cameras and a central control room. It is important to understand that when a street surveillance system is first launched, crime stats will show an increase in the hotspots identified by SAPS due to the fact that previous incidents would have been undetected by cameras in the past. Now, with over 100 street surveillance cameras (and a total of 300 cameras on the IP backbone, which is designed to accommodate approximately 2000 cameras), many more incidents are picked up by the surveillance system and operators over the network.

According to Johnson, the surveillance system is having a positive effect on crimes like petty theft and motor vehicle theft, recovery of stolen property, assault, robbery and drug dealings, together with bylaw enforcement and warnings, such as illegal drinking, loitering, illegal dumping, illegal fires, removal of vagrants – which is assisting traffic officers and SAPS.

He adds that the beachfront has also benefited. Cameras along the beachfront have been used to monitor perlemoen poachers out at sea liaising with a van on land. Beachfront cameras are also used for tracing missing children during peak times on the beaches, and during Christmas and New Year celebrations. On occasion, beachfront cameras have even assisted NSIR to zoom in on the location of boats/swimmers in difficulty during sea rescue operations. The surveillance system has also been integrated with cameras on Segway Personnel Transporters and utilised for first aid, beach patrols and enforcement of municipal bylaws.

Financial obligations

Johnson says the Metro Central Control Room has, over the last four years, become the nerve centre for surveillance monitoring and information gathering in Port Elizabeth, with the Metro Safety and Security Directorate taking the initiative to fund and implement the initial surveillance system. This has created the platform for other end-users, such as parastatals, business and satellite control rooms, to link up with the central control room and make use of the capacity of the system to secure their own environments and hotspots. This includes SA Weather Service, Disaster Management, SAPS, Traffic Management, Public Transportation, Tourism, Metro Customer Care Centres, the Armoury, 2010 stadium and fan parks etc.

Managing surveillance

Johnson explains how, in the case of the PE Metro, the security problem had not been defined in the past as an holistic problem and solved with an holistic solution. This led to fragmentation of security planning and implementation, consequently creating a false sense of security, frequent false alarms and wasteful expenditure (because the objective control offered by a central control facility to which other systems are linked was absent). Systems did not communicate with an objective central control and without the benefit of a central control room, security would not automatically detect when systems broke down or were switched off.

This led to the appointment of Afrisec to do a risk/threat analysis and to produce a security master plan, in tandem with the Safety and Security Business Directorate, which was then presented to council and adopted for implementation. From this process evolved the Enterprise Facilities Management System (EFMS), an integrated security solution that includes CCTV, access control, intruder detection, lighting control, fire detection and alarms, building management systems, online occurrence book and risk management systems. It also ensured that maintenance management was communicated to the operator/supervisor through one viewing system. The EFMS has become the standard for new systems, which must be compatible and integrate seamlessly with the central control room, creating objective security from a central point.

If, says Johnson, a criminal should attempt to perpetrate crime by vandalising or switching off a system or satellite control facility linked to the central control room, this will be detected immediately at central control and investigated. If necessary, central control can also override these systems.

“From a systems viewpoint,” says Johnson, “the EFMS is a stable, reliable platform, ensuring we are able to maintain an average uptime of 95% on the network. With surveillance systems being more and more IP-based, the functionality that the system can provide is vast.

In addition, the need for the operators, supervisors and managers operating the system to be properly vetted, screened and trained (induction and advanced training with refresher/evaluation courses annually) is critical in order to process the best results. A CCTV Management and Operation Code of Best Practice document is a crucial part of an effective CCTV operation. Also important is the incorporation of GIS and mapping systems with the surveillance system, together with the operators visiting, in person, all the camera sites/locations in order to familiarise themselves with the actual lay of the land at each camera position.”

Diverse successes

According to Johnson, the CBD and beachfront cameras have had a positive spin-off in more ways than one. “Not only have they affected security and crime within identified hotspots positively, the diverse functionality of the CCTV cameras have impacted on perlemoen poachers out at sea, disaster management for flooding when there are rough seas and storms (through the early warning system we have installed), illegal dumping of rubble and garbage, lost/stolen pets on the beach, missing children, Webcams for tourism, monitoring veld fires and burning buildings, crowd management for special events, such as the Iron Man Competition and Splash Festival, traffic management and traffic signal synchronisation.”

Finding the right CBD solutions

Johnson reiterates the fact that there is always going to be a limit to funds available for fixed surveillance cameras; crime continues to move from suburb to suburb, thereby creating additional hotspots which require new surveillance measures to be added to the system.

“We believe the solution to this problem is to implement mobile and rapid deployment surveillance solutions (ie, CCTV vehicles, trailers, free standing units) in order to cover more hotspots and to reduce reaction times – all linked back to the central control room,” states Johnson. “The challenge is to coordinate response units, central control room operators and technology out in the field.”

He explains that the objective is to have the operators so in tune with the surveillance system, the areas that they are monitoring and profiles of perpetrators in the various hotspots, that their monitoring function moves from merely reactive to a proactive monitoring scenario. “A good example of this was an incident where one of the CCTV operators identified a known drug dealer in the street, monitored his movements with the surveillance system and, as he began to deal, the response teams – who had already been alerted and were on standby – caught the dealer red-handed with the drugs in his possession,” recalls Johnson.

Is vandalism a threat?

According to Johnson, to date not one of the PE surveillance system cameras has been vandalised. “But operators within control rooms can be influenced by the criminal element to vandalise equipment within these control rooms,” he says. “Therefore cameras in the control rooms, together with proper biometric access control are essential to watch the operators or unauthorised persons gaining entry and to record possible instances of vandalism and wilful destruction or manipulation of the system. An audit trail and reporting system must be in place to fall back on if incidents of vandalism do occur. Objective control, with external control overseeing satellite control rooms must be standard so that if the systems are down or compromised in individual locations, central control will detect this and can override these systems.”

Guarding and street policing

“Central control is like an umbrella over manpower resources at street level – the two resources complement each other,” says Johnson. “There will always be a limit to manpower resources at street level. Central control rooms and objective systems provide back up to the manpower in the streets and make guards/police more effective by covering for them, alerting them, sending back-up resources, such as SAPS, etc.”

Johnson explains that with technology and integrated systems all on an IP backbone, it is now possible to give the manpower in the street access to security information and devices that assist in reducing threats, response times and unsafe situations. He stresses that with the IP backbone in place, it is not only video images that can be sent through the network, but voice (VoIP) and data as well. “In PE we have installed VoIP pushbutton links to central control in the streets to be used by security or the public in a crisis. For disaster management we have installed horn speakers and lights that can be activated from central control with pre-recorded messages and, we have microphones for the operators to speak to perpetrators and warn them off, as well as spot lights.”

Lessons and achievements

Johnson reiterates that, from a service provider’s viewpoint, once a central control room is built, becomes operational and starts to reduce crime and provide a safer environment for the general public, there is great satisfaction derived from contributing to fighting crime in the country and making a difference.

Johnson notes that, as the nation approaches kick-off for the 2010 Soccer World Cup, the CCTV surveillance network will double in size to meet 2010 requirements. The advantage of this is that the capacity will not only be used for the World Cup but for a vital part of crime prevention – helping to create a legacy for many years to come.

Systems used in PE

The Street Surveillance CCTV system that Afrisec designed uses IndigoVision Control Centre from Norbain, which Afrisec has integrated with the central control room EFMS platform. Afrisec is the installer, integrator and maintainer of the EFMS system and provides training for the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality, which is the main funder of the project and provides the manpower for the operators, supervisors, managers and response units.

For more information contact Gary Johnson, Afrisec Group, +27 (0)41 581 7328,

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