The City of Cape Town’s Safety and Security Directorate is investing R14 million in automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) technology in the coming months.
The funding, secured in the annual adjustments budget, will be used to retrofit existing CCTV cameras with ANPR technology and to install similar technology in City enforcement services vehicles.
The Safety and Security Directorate first started experimenting with ANPR technology in 2010. Currently, five traffic vehicles have such installations. The technology is also used at roadblocks where an ANPR camera is mounted on a tripod. The bus and minibus-taxi (BMT) lane and average speed over distance (ASOD) camera systems also make use of ANPR technology.
The cameras have been used as part of Operation Reclaim and are programmed to identify the following:
• Outstanding warrants of arrest on a particular number plate
• Whether a motor vehicle has been suspended
• Mismatched number plates (plates that do not belong to that particular vehicle)
• Unlicensed vehicles
• Stolen vehicles
The latest acquisition will see R8 million being spent on ANPR hardware for vehicle installations and a further R6 million for static installations alongside existing Metro Police-operated CCTV cameras. It is envisioned that approximately 100 CCTV cameras, or 25% of the department’s 436 cameras, will be retrofitted with ANPR capabilities with these funds. Requests for additional funding will be submitted for the 2016/17 budget to extend the static and mobile roll-out.
‘These investments are part of our drive towards a more intelligence-driven policing approach. Residents are constantly calling for more visible policing, but I dare say invisible policing is the way of the future. This technology, plus what is to come in the years ahead, is a powerful force multiplier for law enforcement in that it provides real-time alerts. This greatly strengthens our investigative capabilities by providing data and information that would otherwise have gone undetected,’ said the City’s Mayoral Committee Member for Safety and Security, Alderman JP Smith.
The City has already partnered with more than a dozen private CCTV installations across the city that use licence plate recognition technology, known as the Licence Plate Recognition User Group. The City is currently finalising a policy which will ensure inter-operability and create a city-wide database of suspicious vehicles and wanted vehicles that can be tracked by the private and City-owned cameras using ANPR technology (which the Metro Police will maintain) as well as allow the private networks to place cameras on the City lighting poles, etc. after an application process.
‘CCTV footage has already proven its worth in the fight against crime as it helps law enforcement agencies to respond immediately to incidents. It also assists with mapping crime hotspots, which can then influence deployment patterns. The number plate recognition technology is the latest layer that we’re adding to our arsenal. Who knows what technology will come next. As the largest public surveillance agency on the continent, the City will definitely be in line to get involved,’ added Alderman Smith.