Cape Town drugs CCTV
(Getty Images)
  • The City of Cape Town's crime-specific CCTV network now includes 835 cameras, with coverage increasing by almost 7% over the past year.
  • This led to the detection of more than 15,000 incidents, up 1,509 from the previous financial year.
  • Arrests for drug-related offences stemming from CCTV surveillance still top the list.
  • Most incidents are recorded in November, on Fridays, between 15:00 and 21:00.
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The City of Cape Town's expanding closed-circuit television (CCTV) network has detected 15,000 incidents over the past year and led to hundreds of arrests, with drug-related offences topping the list.

Cape Town's CCTV system has grown in reach and coverage over the past two decades. The network, which started to take proper form ahead of the 2010 Soccer World Cup, now includes more than 830 CCTV cameras dedicated to the Metro Police Department's Strategic Surveillance Unit.

The City's CCTV coverage has expanded by almost 7% over the past year, covering parts of the CBD, northern suburbs, southern suburbs, and Cape Flats. CCTV control rooms are manned by operators who call on metro police or other emergency personnel to investigate suspicious sightings in real-time. Footage can also be used as forensic evidence to help bring perpetrators to book.

"There is huge emphasis on the role of CCTV cameras as a tool to fight crime, and while this is the case, it is also important to highlight the other uses of this technology, like detecting fires, motor vehicle accidents and other incidents where lives or property are potentially at risk and dispatching the correct resources to the exact location of the incident," says the City's Mayoral Committee Member for Safety and Security, Alderman JP Smith.

"Then of course there is the potential for it to be used in aiding the prosecutions authority, or the police in their investigations."

While coronavirus-induced lockdowns have altered crime trends over the past year, CCTV cameras detected 1,509 more incidents compared to the previous year.

"We've noted a significant drop in detections overnight," says Smith.

"This is likely due to the impact of the lockdown and the various curfews that have been in place since March last year. Our officials analyse these trends and incidents not only out of interest, but also because it is very useful to our enforcement services as it can help determine deployment patterns, and the number of resources to deploy."

Arrests for drug-related offences – possession and dealing – remain the most common crimes detected by the City's CCTV system. At least 66 drug-related arrests were made because of camera surveillance over the past year, almost triple the number of people arrested for theft during the same period.

For the past two years, the highest number of incidents have been recorded in November, with Fridays, generally between 15:00 and 21:00, being the busiest.

In addition to drug-related offences, theft out of motor vehicles and protest action or public violence were also among the top crimes detected over the past year. CCTV cameras also led to the arrest of 25 suspected cable thieves, more than eight times the number arrested through surveillance in the previous year.

(Compiled by Luke Daniel)

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