How these street pole cameras are catching criminals across Joburg

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Vumacam’s network of pole-mounted street cameras has been very successful in helping law enforcement and security fight crime, the company told MyBroadband.

Vumacam cameras have been rolled out to various areas in Johannesburg, where they flag unusual behaviour and license plates of vehicles that have previously been linked to a crime.

The company employs two main camera types for this purpose – Overview and License Plate Recognition (LPR) cameras – which are connected to security control rooms via Vuma’s fibre network.

The company has told MyBroadband its LPR cameras generate around 28,000 VOI (Vehicle of Interest) alerts every day, of which 23,500 come from police VOI databases and 4,500 from private security databases.

Vumacam also said it receives requests for approximately 1,000 investigative searches per day.

The majority of the Overview cameras use AI-based behavioural analytics software called iSentry to detect unusual formations of pixels in video feeds to send alerts to the control room, where a human operator can assess the situation and determine if it requires intervention.

This allows security companies and law enforcement agencies to assist citizens in distress or apprehend criminals if necessary.

Major crimes combatted

Vumacam said the system has enjoyed positive responses from security companies, including Fidelity ADT.

Fidelity Services Group CEO Wahl Bartmann said the Vumacam network allows the company to manage and better integrate analytics.

“Crime is a concern for all South Africans and this solution adds an additional layer to the security ecosystem and allows for more efficient monitoring and optimal response protocols,” Bartmann explained.

For the most part, Vumacam cameras assist in the apprehension of suspects involved in a robbery with aggravated circumstances where license plates have been recorded.

The cameras also assist in cases where serious crimes were committed with vehicles with license plates that have been placed on a database. The system then flags these vehicles and allows intervention before more crimes are committed.

It also helps with the apprehension of suspects leaving a new crime scene, as well as the arrest of car thieves and recovery of stolen vehicles.

Hotspot areas

Vumacam said its cameras have been most successful in combatting crime in the Johannesburg CBD, followed by Glenvista CPF in Johannesburg South.

One example given by Vumacam of how the technology has helped fight crime is with its recent installation in the Sandton CID, which went live during the first phase of lockdown.

“Even though crime levels dropped dramatically after the initial lockdown with stringent curfews, there were still over 30 apprehensions in the first 10 weeks,” Vumacam noted.

“As lockdown levels have been eased, crime has increased and in the last week [19 to 26 July], there have been on average three apprehensions per day as a result of camera intervention,” the company said.

Example of cameras in action

The cameras were recently integral to the apprehension of robbery suspects in Fourways.

Members of the SAPS Flying Squad had spotted a suspicious vehicle with four occupants in the Johannesburg CBD and began pursuit of the vehicle, which managed to evade the SAPS unit.

The police immediately contacted off-site monitoring firm AI Surveillance (AIS) to keep a lookout for the vehicle.  The AIS team then added the vehicle details to the vehicle of interest (VOI) database.

“Shortly afterwards, the vehicle triggered an alert on a Vumacam in Rosebank. The alert was then automatically sent in real-time to SAPS and JMPD as well as all private security companies signed up to the Vumacam network.

These responders then began a high-speed chase of the vehicle, but this was made difficult by the traffic and a concern for civilian safety.

“Seeing the direction of the vehicle, SAPS put out an alert to the Fourways Joint Operations Centre which mobilised various security companies and police units in the surrounding areas to be on standby to intercept,” Vumacam explained.

“Responders were kept informed as the Vumacam Licence Plate Recognition (LPR) cameras sent alerts every time the vehicle passed the cameras.”

These responders eventually converged on the vehicle on William Nicol Drive and the suspects were cornered and arrested, and their firearms were seized.

Fidelity Airwing image of Fourways apprehension


Emergency uses

Aside from its benefits in preventing crime and in assisting with the apprehension of criminals, Vumacams can be implemented to assist in various other emergency situations.

The cameras can flag vehicle accidents and locations and send alerts to law enforcement to assist.

Additionally, an incident where someone has been injured can be flagged to alert security companies to call out the necessary medical response teams.

It can also be used to alert authorities of instances of illegal dumping, or damage to infrastructure such as water leaks, potholes, vandalism, and cable theft, as well as dangerous objects obstructing roads.

Evidence for prosecution

Another possible benefit of the cameras is not only in locating and apprehending criminals but providing recordings of the perpetrators carrying out the crime.

“Our HD cameras provide crystal clear footage. Previously CCTV footage was grainy and often unusable not only due to hardware, but to insufficient fibre connectivity.”

The company said footage for evidence needs to be of high quality and stored securely with a fully-verified chain of custody to ensure no tampering.

“Vumacam footage meets all these criteria and we hope this will be tested in the courts as, without CCTV footage, relevant evidence in a case is so often lacking – allowing criminals back on the streets,” Vumacam stated.

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