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Cape Town CCID steps up awareness with body-worn cameras for all its officers

Cape Town CCID steps up awareness with body-worn cameras for all its officers

The Cape Town Central City Improvement District’s (CCID) six-month pilot project that equipped nine of its patrolling public safety officers (PSOs) with body-worn video (BWV) has proven to be such a success that the programme is now being rolled out to the entire PSO complement.

The nine-officer trial was launched just before the 2015 festive season and exceeded all expectations in de-escalating potentially violent situations, preventing crime and modifying the behaviour both of members of the public as well as that of the PSOs.

This is according to Muneeb Hendricks, CCID Safety & Security manager, who says: “BWV cameras are cutting-edge technology for law enforcement services globally and their aim, in a nutshell, is to keep everyone on the side of the law, honest and well behaved. It’s about behaviour modification and accountability.

“The BWV cameras are as effective at improving service delivery by our PSOs as they are at reducing public crime and violence levels in areas where they are deployed, because everybody’s actions are recorded.

“From the CCID’s point of view, we want to render the highest quality, efficient service that applies all laws and regulations equally and takes the guess work out of incident reporting.”

Hendricks says 75 BWVs have already been purchased – enough to cover a full shift rotation – and the rollout will take place over the next two months as the PSOs are trained in groups to use the new technology.

The BWVs that the CCID PSOs will use are designed for round-the-clock deployment because they are equipped with infrared recording capabilities for after dark, laser guides to indicate where the cameras are pointing and the ability to record video, sound and rapid multiple still images.

Hendricks says the decision to extend the pilot project to all the CCID’s PSOs in the Central City was an easy one based on the overwhelming success of the six-month trial.

“Cameras are most effective as an immediate behaviour modification tool. If people know they’re being recorded they’re unlikely to escalate to violence in a potentially volatile situation. This applies to both the public and the officers themselves.

“They are also extremely effective in targeting specific types of crime, both covertly and overtly. From a covert crime-prevention point of view, if you know, for instance, that drug dealing is happening in a certain area, officers can record from a distance and with the footage we can compile an evidence dossier. Overtly, we deploy the BWV officers in the hotspot and the drug dealers will leave because they won’t want to conduct business in full view of a video camera, the footage of which can be used in evidence by our law enforcement partners at the City and the South African Police Service.”

Hendricks says a particularly important aspect of the BWV deployment is to ensure that the rights of the public are protected.

“The use of BWVs has substantially reduced the number of investigations conducted when we receive complaints against our PSOs. We have always investigated, and will continue to investigate, every complaint we receive, but cameras take the ‘he said, she said’ aspect out of the equation and we’ve been able to resolve cases far more quickly.

“They have been particularly effective in resolving ‘stop and search’ complaints against our own, as well as our Law Enforcement partners at the City, when allegations have been made that money or personal possessions have been taken. Or complaints that our own PSOs have in any way acted in an untoward and possibly even illegal manner.”

Tasso Evangelinos, chief operating officer of the CCID, says a Digital Evidence Management System (DEMS) has been purchased along with the cameras to enable all footage from incidents to be stored to protect the chain of evidence.

“This system allows us to securely store, manage and export digital footage as required,” says Evangelinos, “and only the administrator of the system can delete footage, not the user, so if the user has misbehaved on duty, that person cannot delete the footage.”

The DEMS system also uses encryption software so that if the file is copied, it cannot be viewed on another system.

Evangelinos says all footage captured will remain the property of and in safekeeping with the CCID. “We will of course make it available in criminal cases as required and it will always be available to the City of Cape Town Law Enforcement agencies and the SAPS.”

Hendricks believes that when the BWV rollout to all PSOs in the Central City is complete, it will have a dramatic behavioural effect on both the public and officers to ensure compliance with all laws and regulations.

“The Cape Town CCID is leading the international best-practice charge in South Africa in terms of safeguarding all members of the public in our footprint and ensuring that their rights are protected when they interact with our public safety officials.

“Ultimately this will make the streets of Cape Town’s CBD safer for everyone.”