After a successful trial period in December, the City of Cape Town says it will now look at other opportunities for ‘aerial policing’ and the use of helicopters.
The Metro Police Department’s Strategic Surveillance Unit initially used the helicopters as part of its festive season planning, as it would provide a global view of the many public attractions around the city on priority days over the period.
However, the helicopter flights also helped to detect and monitor incidents that could be a threat to public safety and provided an opportunity to document and photograph areas of concern.
This video and photographic evidence could then be utilised for further analysis, research or further prosecution.
Apart from relaying information about beaches at capacity and traffic congestion, the staff on board the helicopter also detected and alerted the Metro Police Control Room to a number of incidents, including:
- Motor vehicle accidents;
- Broken down motor vehicles on the N2 and other major routes;
- A land invasion;
- A kite surfer in distress;
- Sand on main beach roads;
- Vegetation and structural fires;
- A capsised rubber duck;
- Fighting on the beaches.
“The department made use of an existing tender to book approximately seventeen hours of flight time over the festive season.
“The ground they were able to cover and the intelligence they fed back to their control centre made the investment worthwhile, and has given us a new perspective on the possibilities that come from aerial policing,” said the city’s Mayoral Committee Member for Safety and Security, JP Smith.
He added that the pilot project has shown that the use of the helicopter is far more cost-effective than previously assumed.
“So satisfied are we with the results of this pilot project, that we are in fact considering the feasibility of reintroducing helicopter flights to monitor daily traffic, given the challenge presented by congestion in our morning and afternoon peak periods, as well as crime combatting and prevention in crime hotspots.
“We are discussing the option of a public-private partnership to make any future aerial policing even more affordable.”