Cape Town’s big plan to fight crime – including high-tech gunshot detection and drones

 ·4 May 2023

The City of Cape Town is expanding its tech-led approach to battle crime by bringing gunshot detection and drones to specific gang violence hotspots in consultation with the South African police service (SAPS).

The city said that the new gunshot detection follows a successful pilot programme in Hanover Park and Manenberg over three years, which significantly reduced shooting incidents, the number of shots per incident and led to an increase in the recovery of illegal guns.

The technology – known as SoundThinking – can identify the sound of gunfire, allowing law enforcement the immediate ability to identify territorial battles between rival gangs.

The city added that, in the past, the police would only become aware of these violent flare-ups after numerous deaths were reported. The new technology will allow the SAPS to stabilise an area far quicker.

Moreover, gunfire audio alerts will be integrated into the city’s digital rapid-response system – EPIC – allowing for multi-agency responses to violence.

“Acoustic gunshot detection is part of the city’s vision for tech-led policing to make Cape Town safer. This includes a suite of interventions – from aerial surveillance to drones, CCTV, bodycams, dashcams and more – backed by an R860 million investment in safety tech over three years,” said Mayor Geordin Hill-Lewis.

“Tech-led policing provides a crucial strategic advantage as we add more boots on the ground, having already deployed 1 200 new officers to crime hotspots in vulnerable communities through the LEAP programme together with the Western Cape Government.”

“Our officers are already taking guns and drugs off the streets on a daily basis. But with more policing powers – particularly to investigate crime – we can do even more to help SAPS by building prosecution-ready case dockets.”

The city will also phase in aerial surveillance, such as drones, providing visuals to the audio alerts provided by the gunshot detection technology.

The city said that increased aerial surveillance will improve the chances of arrests and firearm recovery, potentially gather crime scene evidence to improve conviction rates and give life-saving medical 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. Resources and intelligent policing will get arrests, as we see from our weekly enforcement efforts, but without swift convictions, these efforts come to nought,” Mayoral Committee Member for Safety and Security, JP Smith, said.

Ralph Clark, President and CEO of SoundThinking said: “We are proud to be partnering with the City of Cape Town and SAPS to tackle the ever-increasing levels of gun crime in the metro and are keen to build on the successes seen to date.” 

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