Gauteng Premier wants to fight crime using tech

  • Premier Panyaza Lesufi outlined crime fighting plans that could’ve been plucked from a sci-fi novel.
  • Solutions include e-Panic buttons, surveillance cameras with facial detection and police cars loaded with “gadgets”.
  • CCTV cameras are said to be rolling out to suburbs, townships, business districts, schools and other public places from 1st April.

On Monday Gauteng Premier Panyaza Lesufi delivered the State of the Province Address. The premier addressed a number of social developments the province hopes to push forward this year and in future, but it was talk of fighting crime as a primary focus that caught our attention.

“Today, let’s openly admit, our province is a home of heartless and merciless criminals. They do as they wish,” said Lesufi.

This is not just true for Gauteng, but South Africa as a whole as Police Minister Bheki Cele revealed last week.

“The 3RD quarter crime figures show that while there are increases in contact crimes such as murder, assault and robberies, there is significant improvement in crimes detected as a result of police action,” said Cele.

But it’s Lesufi’s proposed solutions to crime that had us slack jawed.

The first is arming residents with e-Panic buttons. These will linked to law enforcement agencies which will monitor these alerts as well as CCTV cameras from a “state of the art Integrated Command Centre”. From April, local government will reportedly be rolling out CCTV surveillance in suburbs, townships, business districts, school and other public places with facial and vehicle recognition.

This immediately got our guard up as facial recognition is a controversial privacy issue. Vumacam which operates surveillance in a number of areas has had to repeatedly state that it doesn’t make use of facial recognition in its surveillance but there has – and likely will always be – been an air of doubt in this regard. Government having access to this level of surveillance is a concern, especially when it isn’t exactly clear what is being done with the mountain of data that is collected.

Moving on, Lesufi’s next big idea is using drones to “infiltrate areas that are difficult to patrol and police”. These drones will also reportedly feature acoustic gunshot detection. Knowing how loud drones are we aren’t sure how effective they’ll be at infiltrating anywhere quieter than an airport terminal. We also do wonder how effective acoustic gunshot detection on a drone would be. Airobotics is partnering with ShotSpotter, but that application sees drones being used to get eyes on a situation and not necessarily as the way gunshots are detected.

We also very much doubt Lesufi is talking about drones like the Milkor 380 but we are happy to be told otherwise.

The Premier also said that the province has acquired 400 new police vehicles. This reportedly means that “every ward in our communities will have a 24hr patrol car equipped with proper gadgets.”

Something that seems interesting is the tracking of firearms. To be clear, Lesufi says that, “Together with the private security industry, we have found a solution that will assist in tracking stolen guns and locate them wherever they are in our country.”

How exactly this would be accomplished is something we’re not sure of but Lesufi says that law enforcement’s weapons will be added to this system first.

To accomplish this Lesufi says that the crime fighting budget has been increased from R750 million to “multi-billion in the next three years”.

These are some erm, interesting proposals but we do wonder if they’re based more in science fiction than reality.

Let’s see if anything from the address comes to fruition in the next few months and the year ahead.


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