Johannesburg is known for its high crime rates, and it has even been labelled as a lawless city. That is why it did not come as a surprise when the city introduced surveillance cameras referred to as anti-crime street cameras that are meant to reduce crime rates.
Originally, closed-circuit television (CCTV) was developed in an effort to reduce crimes that occur in private spaces, including banks and shopping malls. It has become common to find video surveillance cameras in public areas like parks and business districts as they can significantly reduce crime and increase safety. Many other cities in the world have decided to make use of surveillance cameras in an effort to reduce crime. One of the South African cities that has started using video surveillance cameras in public spaces is Johannesburg.
The city has begun to use these surveillance cameras in known high crime hotspots where there is a concentration of people and traffic. The purpose of these cameras is for all members of the public, and primarily criminals, to understand that they are under surveillance. Whenever people feel that they are being watched, there is a heightened fear of committing crime. Therefore, it is an effective method that can be used to discourage people from committing crimes. It also assists people in realising that they could be possible victims of crime which makes them much more vigilant.
Whenever there are CCTV cameras in areas, it helps promote the perception of safety, which reduces the crime rates in the area. In a study conducted for areas with CCTV cameras in public spaces, there was a notable reduction in several crimes such as theft and robberies. The presence of these cameras assisted greatly in reducing crimes in car parks as there was a 50% decrease. There has also been a link to reducing non-violent crimes in areas with CCTV cameras by 23.5%.
The video surveillance cameras in Johannesburg are fibre-connected and allow for real-time streaming of feed. They also contain iSentry, an Al-based behavioural analytic software that picks up on unusual formations of pixels contained in video feeds that can send alerts to a human operator in the control room to determine if the situation requires intervention. This can assist law enforcement, and security companies reduce crime, which can also be beneficial for citizens if they need help.
In the areas that these cameras have been installed in Johannesburg, there have been positive responses, especially from security companies. These cameras are not only effective for crimes like robberies or other non-violent crimes, but they can assist in crimes where vehicles are used in order to commit serious crimes. The vehicle’s number plates can be stored in a database, and the vehicle is flagged, which can serve as an intervention method. When crimes are committed, the cameras can effectively apprehend the suspects that leave a crime scene and can be helpful when making arrests for car thieves and recovering stolen vehicles.
Though video surveillance can specifically reduce and prevent crime, it can promote safety in other areas. The cameras can be helpful in emergencies such as flagging vehicle accidents and the location of the accident. This information can be sent to law enforcement and medical response teams to assist. The cameras could also alert the authorities of less obvious crimes that we might not consider daily, such as illegal dumping, cable theft, vandalism or issues that require their attention, like water leaks or potholes.
The quality of the cameras is beneficial when it comes to the persecution of crimes as the footage could be used as evidence. The cameras have crystal clear footage, and they only need to be stored securely to ensure that they cannot be tampered with. Once it meets this criterion, courts can use it and remove some criminals from the streets.
Although the anti-crime cameras serve as a crime reduction and prevention method, they do, however, have some limitations. Firstly, some perceive these cameras as an infringement of their right to privacy. People also tend to behave better when they know that they are being watched. This is mainly the reason why the cameras have been so successful as they limit freedom of expression. The cameras also gain visual information from the sensors, and if this information were to be misused, it could have dangerous consequences.
In an effort to reduce the high crime rates, the City of Johannesburg introduced anti-crime street cameras, which so far have been effective in fulfilling their purpose. Even though there are some privacy concerns, they still serve a greater purpose as they increase safety for citizens.