Police not using Khayelitsha CCTV to catch criminals

Cape Town - Police have made use of CCTV footage to catch criminals in Khayelitsha just five times in the last 10 years, according to an official report.

As one of South Africa’s largest townships, Khayelitsha has more CCTV cameras than any other district of Cape Town, except for the CBD.

Yet a long-awaited report by the Commission of Inquiry on policing in the area has claimed that the SAPS “makes no effective use of the CCTV cameras located in Khayelitsha for the purpose of prevention and detection of criminals".

The report revealed that the existing cameras in Khayelitsha, which were installed in 2003, have never been used in a criminal prosecution at the Khayelitsha Magistrate's Court.

Records show that police have only collected footage from the control centres five times, the report found.

It also found that only 63% of the CCTV cameras were working, with the remainder damaged by copper theft and illegal “tapping” of electricity.  

Call for more cameras

The commission has called on police to meet with City of Cape Town officials “immediately” to discuss the relocating and replacing of CCTV cameras in Khayelitsha, as well as adding more cameras - particularly in transport hubs and near schools.

But there are currently no plans to erect any more CCTV cameras in Khayelitsha under Cape Town’s 10 year plan, which began rolling out CCTV coverage in 2008.

Cape Town’s Mayoral Committee Member for Safety and Security, Alderman JP Smith, told News24: “There are other hot spots where the crime rate is as bad or worse than Khayelitsha, where there are currently no cameras.

He added: “If more money is made available we could instantly install more cameras, but under the current budget there is not a chance that we can. Some communities have been waiting five or six years for cameras to be installed, to say that we would bump them down that list at this stage…”

Police fail to respond

Smith also said he was aware of the “weakness” in police use of CCTV footage, claiming that the police are simply "not using" CCTV footage in order to follow up on crimes.

According to Smith, city officials took sample footage of 79 incidents and found that the SAPS had only responded to a “miniscule” number of them.

A spokesperson for the police in Cape Town declined to comment on the issue, telling News24
that the report has yet to be seen by the Western Cape police commissioner Arno Lamoer.

He said that the scathing report, which was published on Monday and is readily available on the commission’s website, was “not with the provincial commissioner yet”.

‘Not just a crime tool’

Cape Town’s two CCTV control centres monitor almost 400 CCTV cameras across the city. They are operated by Traffic Management Centre, but both contain a Saps member at all times, whose job it is to dispatch staff if needed or collect evidence.

Smith pointed out that CCTV is not just a crime tool, but is multi-faceted. He said: “We use it to report all defects - from street lighting to roads, we use it for traffic events and as prosecuting evidence - we make every possible use of it as it is expensive.”

The city centre boasts almost a quarter of all CCTV coverage, with 80 cameras, but it is nearly all privately funded by businesses.

Khayelitsha’s 16 cameras meanwhile were all funded by the national government. It has more cameras than any other district, just topping Mitchell’s Plain and Sea Point, which both have 14 cameras each.

Smith said Premier Helen Zille had to “hit up” the University of Cape Town and SA Breweries for the money to install CCTV in the southern suburbs of Rondebosch and Mowbray.

He also revealed that Zille has called for a meeting to discuss the findings of the report on Khayelitsha.