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Impact of ShotSpotter technology receives mixed reaction

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While gang violence continues to impede the lives of residents within the Cape Flats, new gunshot-detecting technology has shed a ray of hope on besieged communities. On Thursday, the City of Cape Town’s Department of Safety and Security unveiled ShotSpotter, which is a pilot project that has been released in two gang-ridden communities of the Cape Flats, Manenberg and Hanover Park. Unlike conversational city-monitoring technology that enables crime to be visually recorded, such as CCTV cameras, ShotSpotter ‘listens’ for violent activity and gunshots. The technology provides Metro Police and the South African Police Service (SAPS) to immediately respond to every gunshot that is fired within the range of the device.

Speaking to VOC’s Breakfast Beat Show, mayoral committee member for Safety and Security for the City of Cape Town, Alderman JP Smith explains that the system tracks gunshots, triangulates the shots, and ensues that there is an immediate response by law enforcement agencies.

“Because we are responding to every single gunshot, as appose to one-in-six or one-in-eight, as was the case before, we are [now] recovering more firearms and securing more arrests,” Smith stated.

In light of the current surge in gang violence within Cape Flats communities, Smith notes that since the inception of the system a marked decrease in the number of shooting incidents have been reported.

He explains that the choice of areas in which the project was rolled out was based on the level of vulnerability that communities are facing with regard to criminal and gang activity; Hanover Park and Manenberg recording the highest stats.

“We did a pilot some time ago, but unfortunately it was only Metro Police that was responding to it at the time. That has since changed and SAPS is on now board.”

Smith says that with law enforcement responding to every single gunshot, gangs appear to have been deterred from partaking in violent activity.

While the system is only in the control phase of the pilot project, Smith notes that the technology will be rolled out to other areas of concern if the project proves to be a success over the course of the next year.

Inclusive in the benefits that the system provides is its crime intelligence, which enables the system to record every single gunshot, the calibre of the weapon, from where the shot originated, and records the forensic data for investigation.

“That means we are now able to plan the operation better; where police are going to deploy and at what time so that they can focus on the hotspots for effectively.”

Meanwhile, Hanover Park Community Policing Forum (CPF) spokesperson, Ebrahim Abrahams, explains that while there has been a reduction in the number of shots fired, in his opinion, the decrease is not due to the presence of ShotSpotter technology.

Abrahams asserts that the decrease in violent activity is more likely to be as a result of engagement between community members and those involved in the outbreak of violence within the Hanover Park area.

“The CPF has not been part of most of the planning, because the City has different views on how to engage – and that’s a problem,” he said.

He says that the CPF has on numerous occasions approached mayor Patricia de Lille and encouraged the mayor to effectively engage with the community, but that she has shown no interest in the recommendations that residents have tabled.

“I have taken our concerns to JP Smith, but he has his own struggle of getting through to de Lille. The issues we have raised with him and MEC Dan Plato and they are not listening,” Abrahams continued.

Abrahams urges the City to ensure that all stakeholders work together in the fight against crime.



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