Durban – Metro police in the eThekwini Municipality have proposed an ambitious smart security plan that aims to ensure prompt response to crimes in progress.
A document titled “eThekwini Municipality Metro Police Services Smart Policing” details the plan and the equipment needed to make it work.
It says the aim is to “make it difficult to commit crimes in eThekwini and secondary cities without being successfully prosecuted”.
But it comes with a heavy price tag of R300 million.
Among items that will be purchased is a Smart Policing dispatching platform and intelligent cameras. Other purchases include a mobile police station designed to act as the eyes of the crime-fighting units at major events.
The document states that the smart security plan will be piloted among some of the city’s own units that have been victims of vandalism, intimidation by criminal gangs, and even murder. The units include water, electricity, the eThekwini Transport Authority and Housing.
Business in the city will also take part in the programme. At least one multinational based in Durban will participate and cameras will be installed around its premises, area of operations and where its employees live in the South Basin.
The proposal drew positive reaction from eThekwini councillors who said it was long overdue.
Deputy head of metro police Sbonelo Mchunu said the key objective was to have a proactive approach to crime fighting. He said the system would cost about R300m in total but would be installed in phases.
The report stated that the metro police intend to purchase a “Smart Policing dispatching platform that will be able to access all systems and integrate their data to prevent crime, archive the enforcement of by-laws and efficient prosecution of traffic offenders when the offence is being committed”.
Mchunu said they will install intelligent cameras with crime-combating features including facial recognition which can instantly relay information to the main centre where the operators would be able to process the information.
He said it was formulated to compensate for the severe staffing shortage within the unit.
“In 2010, we were supposed to be at 5 000 members, at the moment we are around 1 800 so there is about a 70% staffing shortage and this plan will accommodate and help us combat crime by compensating for that shortage.”
Mchunu said another aim was to tackle vandalism and threats directed at municipal departments.
He said some of the units had given up R71m of their own security budget for the project.
Speaking of the role of the system in municipal units, the document states that at basic level, the units will purchase dash cameras, among other items, will be able to monitor the fleet vehicles in a case of theft or bad driver behaviour by members and provide accurate information on departmental road crashes.
“In the water department, for instance, with this new security system, all the faces of the staff will be scanned so when a person who does not work there enters, that person will be detected.”
Among the security features being proposed under the plan was the use of body cameras by metro police officers.
“This will assist the metro police command centre to track/trace and be able to view the officers as they patrol the streets, to improve efficiency and safety,” it said.
The plan also suggests the use of commercial drones for policing.
“Law-enforcement agencies have started using drones to gain a tactical advantage in proactive situations. This has allowed law enforcers to plan entry strategies without having to expose the officers unnecessarily to risk such as protests, search and rescue, etc.”
IFP councillor Mdu Nkosi said the party supported the initiative, but urged that the cameras be in working condition at all times.
“This is long overdue, crime in and around the city is too much. Crime should be prevented before it happens, before a person is killed.
“What I would urge is that the cameras they will be installing should be in working condition, we can’t have a situation where they install cameras and when crime is committed people are told the cameras were not working or faced a different area at the time of the crime,” said Nkosi.
DA councillor Thabani Mthethwa also welcomed the initiative, especially if it provided security to sensitive infrastructure that is being vandalised.
“We have been calling for more security, especially for infrastructure and we welcome this (plan) provided it does not compromise the maintenance of infrastructure (by moving funds away from these units),” said Mthethwa.