Technology helps town cut back on crime

JOHANNESBURG (11/25/2003) - Port Shepstone, South Africa has upgraded its street surveillance system to ensure 24-hour street security monitoring with help from Intervid Africa, the regional operation of security solutions provider Intervid Inc.

Upgrades to the digital surveillance system include two new cameras and the ability of the system to offer day and night street surveillance.

The new day/night system consists of eight dome cameras placed strategically in high crime areas in the town, including the taxi rank, banking area and shopping center.

"Our CBD was rife with crime, from bag-snatching and mugging to drug-dealing and armed robbery. After installing our first surveillance system in July 2001, also supplied by Intervid, the incidence of daylight crime fell dramatically, as criminals were quickly apprehended, and word spread among them that it was no longer safe to operate in our streets," says director of Hibiscus Coast Protection Services, Victor Chetty.

"However lawbreakers soon realized that they were not being watched at night -- that is when we decided to upgrade our system to ensure 24-hour surveillance." The upgrade, which went live in July, has already yielded footage that has helped police to solve a number of crimes.

Monitoring streets with closed circuit television (CCTV) camera systems has become common, particularly for local government authorities.

The Port Shepstone municipality is the first of many along the Hibiscus Coast to install a street surveillance system.

Other towns along the Hibiscus Coast are expected to roll-out their own surveillance systems over the next three years.

Port Shepstone's street surveillance system, leased from Intervid on a full maintenance contract, incorporates an advanced digital video recorder.

Its powerful image processing hardware aims to produce high-speed recording and playback of high-resolution motion video. It is designed to convert images to actionable information, servicing security, law enforcement and safety procedures around the clock.

"The latest technology lets operators pan, tilt or zoom their cameras via the Internet or computer network, allowing police or dispatchers to remotely monitor and control the cameras, zooming in on trouble spots from the control room kilometers away. A single monitor can simultaneously display images from all cameras, reducing the expense of multiple screens," explains Martin Jones, regional director of Intervid KZN.

According to Chetty, crime reduction is only one of the rationales for installing a camera system. Another is a desire to improve public perceptions of safety.

"Port Shepstone is the largest town on the KwaZulu-Natal South Coast region, and it is the administrative, commercial, distribution and transport center of the South Coast. It is also a perfect stop for tourists wanting to experience some of the beautiful Hibiscus Coast, a primary tourist destination, boasting three Blue Flag Beaches. CCTV plays an important role in marketing the coastline as relatively safe," concludes Chetty.

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