Sea Point residents install surveillance cameras to fight crime

Written by Yazeed Kamaldien

Sea Point residents plan to create a safer suburb with high technology cameras to combat crime, in an initiative that has already led to arrests.

Heather Tager, chief operations officer at the Sea Point City Improvement District, said since February they installed 25 licence plate recognition cameras in the area.

Their goal is to have 40 cameras, that are imported at a cost of R40,000 each.

Tager said the cameras “captures licence plate registration numbers and what type of car is driven”.

“That information goes on to a central database that various suburbs are part of. There are quite a few clone number plates but the car make and even detail on the car is also recorded.

“That’s how we know exactly which car has been used in a crime,” said Tager.

When a car used in a crime is spotted by one of the cameras, an “alert goes off and we get a message on our cell phones,” said Tager.

“The police get that message too and they would go out and search for the vehicle.

“We had an incident where a vehicle had been involved in a robbery in another area. Police stopped the vehicle and found R26,000 of shoplifted clothing in the boot.”

The 25 cameras are monitored in a control room around the clock. They record all activity that could be used as evidence to investigate crimes, said Tager.

She said the cameras have regularly picked up on criminals who use “car remote jamming devices”.

“When you lock your car with your central locking remote, a criminal can use another remote to interfere with the frequency and your car won’t lock,” said Tager.

“People don’t check if the car is locked and that’s when the criminal steals things out of the car. We have caught a few criminals doing this on camera.”

Sea Point residents have contributed to the financial cost of the crime-capturing cameras.

Derek Salter, chairperson of the Sea Point, Fresnaye, Bantry Bay Ratepayers and Residents Association, said they were motivated because “we’ve already seen positive results as there have been arrests”.

“We have overview cameras on particularly busy streets. It has picked up crime. It records what’s going on,” said Salter.

“We see it as part of the mix for safety, security and crime prevention in our area. We don’t think because we have cameras we don’t need anything else.

“We still need the police and the community’s eyes and ears.”

Salter said residents believe “we have a duty to help get the funding that’s needed to complete the project”.

“One block of flats gave R2,000. Another individual gave R100. We want cameras to cover the whole area,” he said.

“We can’t say once we have the cameras we can’t do anything else.”

Salter said when he moved to Sea Point 11 years ago “we had a lot of crime”.

“The block of flats next to me was a drug den. We held demonstrations and worked with the police. We employed a street cleaner. The community got together,” he said.

“Drug dealing was not on. It was driving people out of the area. That’s now been turned around.”

He said residents were also “looking at getting extra foot patrols in the area to have additional support for the police”.

“If criminals see more law enforcement they will think twice about coming into the area,” he said.

“We do still have crime such as theft from motor vehicles. There are also robberies. This doesn’t create a good image for the area.”

Tager said Sea Point’s crime has decreased over the last decade.

“We don’t have a high crime rate. It’s a perception that we do. About ten years ago we had a terrible crime problem. Not anymore,” she said.

“I’ve lived here most of my life. It’s taken a long time to get to where we are now. We used to have in-your-face drug dealing in the streets. There’s still drug dealing, but not like it used to be.

“That was about six years ago. We cleaned it up. You have to fight for what you want.”

Tager added: “Confidence and business is coming back into the area. We had a new shopping complex built. We have five new developments underway.”

Crime Stats SA, run by Meerkat Data Management company, confirms that statistically crime in Sea Point decreased between 2004 and 2014.

Assault with the intent to inflict grievous bodily harm decreased from 92 incidents in 2004 to 18 in 2014.

Over the same period, assault dropped from 260 to 121; robbery from 190 to 80; burglary at residential premises from 713 to 376.

Theft out of motor vehicles has not seen much decline though: it dropped minimally from 1262 to 1099.

Tager said this was because “people still leave stuff in their car”.

“They think crime won’t happen to them,” she said.

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About Yazeed Kamaldien

Self-employed journalist and photographer from South Africa.

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