The City of Cape Town is combining gunshot detection technology and drones to pinpoint gun violence and rapidly deploy police.
Acoustic gunshot detection systems went live in Hanover Park in December and Manenberg in February, followed most recently by Lavender Hill.
About 35 firearms and 400 rounds of ammunition have already been taken off the streets, resulting in 50 arrests in a short space of time.
Cape Town is investing around R860-million over three years in technology to make the city safer. The money will be used on CCTV systems, drones, dashcams, aerial surveillance systems, acoustic gunshot detection and a master digital system to coordinate it all in real-time – known as Epic.
The aim is to target specific gang violence hotspots in consultation with national police. The launch follows a successful three-year pilot in Hanover Park and Manenberg that led to a significant reduction in shooting incidents and the increased recovery of illegal guns.
The technology – known as SoundThinking (formerly ShotSpotter) – identifies the sound of gunfire, allowing police to pinpoint territorial battles erupting between rival gangs. Previously, the police would only become aware of violent flare-ups once the body count began rising. Now the city is able to gain strategic information in real time, allowing authorities to stabilise an area a lot faster.
Besides alerts to specific gunfire incidents, the data allows more strategic deployment of police. Gunshots can be pinpointed by street, block, day and time, generating heat maps and measurable data on gun violence trends. Automatic gunfire can also be specifically detected and the city is integrating gunfire audio alerts into the Epic system to coordinate multi-agency responses.
“For best results, we need a well-resourced SAPS to stage rapid joint responses with us and well-run prosecutions to gain convictions. Our officers are already taking guns and drugs off the streets daily. But with more policing powers – particularly to investigate crime – we can do even more to help the SAPS by building prosecution-ready case dockets,” said Cape Town mayor Geordin Hill-Lewis in a statement on Friday.
The city is also phasing in aerial surveillance – including drones – as an additional “eye in the sky” to the audio alerts provided by the gunshot detection technology. This tech-led response to gang violence offers several advantages, including better prospects for arrests and firearm recovery; increased potential to gather crime scene evidence and improve conviction rates; and lifesaving trauma interventions to gunshot wound victims.
“It is critical to understand that this gunshot detection technology will not stop gun violence, but that it is one more tool among many to reduce crime. The technology relies on quick responses to be effective. The city has increased its resources in many of the crime hotspots since the technology was first piloted, working closely with the SAPS to help us fully exploit the technology,” said mayoral committee member for safety and security JP Smith. – © 2023 NewsCentral Media