The City of Cape Town has begun using 800 CCTV cameras across the metro to capture illegal driving and nail errant drivers.
Capetonians are used to being caught on camera – for speeding and, in some places, skipping red lights – but now may receive fines based on video of their offences.
The system proved effective recently when a motorcyclist did a “doughnut” outside the provincial legislature on Wale Street in the CBD.
Unaware he was being “watched” by CCTV video cameras, the motorcyclist left a circular rubber mark on the road.
The rider has been fined.
Mayoral committee member for safety and security JP Smith said: “The public has become skilled at looking out for speeding cameras. The new camera system is using innovative technology that is able to detect traffic violations, such as driving through a red robot.
“We started experimenting with the system in December. We are now able to detect and prosecute law breakers across the city in areas with sharp road bends and bus lanes, which traffic officers can’t physically control.”
In the past decade CCTV cameras have been installed in strategic places across the city – in the CBD, the northern and southern suburbs, Mitchells Plain, Gugulethu and Khayelitsha.
The cameras are city-owned and were installed primarily for crime prevention and to help monitor the roads in real time.
Footage from these cameras has never been used to prosecute motorists.
Now, at the Transport Management Centre in Goodwood and the city’s “Cyclops” centre opposite the Cape Town International Convention Centre on Hans Strijdom Avenue, officers save footage with a view to prosecution. The footage is also scanned later for offences.
In December alone, 474 drivers were caught on video driving on the shoulders of city highways.
In January, 588 motorists were fined for driving in dedicated IRT bus lanes.
Between October 2011 and January, 2 809 traffic violations worth R1 576 150 were detected using CCTV footage.
Three motorists were caught speaking on the cellphones, and have been fined.
Smith said: “I’m extremely happy, because we now have 800 extra sets of eyes and ears for the traffic department to try to make our roads safer.”
He said the cameras helped nail errant motorists in places they previously thought safe to break the law.
“In many places we cannot do manual enforcement. For example, on Hospital Bend you cannot easily pull vehicles over without causing substantial traffic problems, or endangering the lives of traffic officers.
“The video cameras solve this problem. It’s the first time this has ever been done.
“All video recordings are noted on a field sheet which is submitted to Syntel, a private company responsible for processing the fines.”
People who receive a fine can ask to see the footage of the offence after they have received the first notice, said Smith.
In terms of the overall effectiveness of CCTV cameras in combating crime in Cape Town, the Cape Argus reported last month that the number of staff monitoring the city’s CCTV network had led to a spike in the number of offences detected.
Between July and December, 5 030 incidents were recorded. The figure increased by 1 476 compared with the same period in 2010.
City of Cape Town statistics reveal that criminal activities made up the biggest number, with 1 826 incidents in the past six months.
Traffic violations accounted for 1 826, by-law offences for 287, and fire for 291, while 1 470 were categorised as “other”.