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​The City's extensive camera surveillance system, located within the Integrated Intelligence Operations Centre (IIOC), keeps a beady eye on the inner city and is already helping to minimise crime and grime.

The surveillance nerve centre is situated inside the JMPD's Martindale headquarters and provides for an integration of all municipal data on a single platform. This helps improve crime detection and prevention and decision-making on critical municipal services using technology.

Neani Mulaudzi, a Network Operations Manager at the Metro Trading Company (MTC), a city-owned entity charged with the deployment of broadband, says in future, the IIOC will serve as a modern data centre, allowing seamless interoperability, transmission, sharing and exchange of data packets between all city-owned entities.

It is now well over two years since the City expanded its network of closed circuit television (CCTV) surveillance cameras, from 216 in 2009 to the current 491, spread across the inner city and suburbia.

This was done to bolster safety and security in the inner city and to mitigate petty crime, which has plagued Joburg's central business district for years. The main aim is to stop all crime and improve the quality of life and personal safety of all people in the city so that they can enjoy being in the CBD without the threat of harm.

Since the installation of the CCTV surveillance system, all crime in Johannesburg, from bag snatching, pickpocketing and cellphone theft, to smash-and-grab attacks, indecent assault, robbery and other serious crime has dramatically declined.

The IIOC is designed to enable the City to integrate all existing municipal systems and allow it to use its available resources efficiently in an effort to reduce response times on service delivery needs.

To intensify its safety efforts, the City has partnered with the South African Police Service. A strong contingent of officers and metro cops patrol the city centre every day, with additional officers in plain clothes driving unmarked vehicles.

The IIOC uses direct radio contact with officers on patrol, which makes it easy for them to respond swiftly to crime as it unfolds, as well as clamp down on criminals by monitoring suspicious activity.

JMPD spokesman Superintendent Wayne Minnaar says the police are always in the loop to pounce on criminals who are spotted by the cameras. “We are in full view of criminals," he says.

The surveillance system is not only used for crime detection and prevention, but it also monitors and analyses traffic flow and congestion, maintain active control over the maintenance of municipal infrastructure and improves emergency response times and overall service delivery.

The IIOC's control room functions for 24 hours and is staffed by fully trained operators who work closely with law enforcers placed around the CBD. The nerve centre comprises more than 50 large screens - one meter by half-a-meter in size - that monitor about 15 cameras each, with one person operating the desk. It has a total staff complement of 100 operators, with 25 a shift, supplemented by seven metro police and SAPS officers.

The IIOC uses a futuristic surveillance model, which incorporates the most up-to-date features and technology, making Joburg's CCTV system one of the most modern and sophisticated in the world. It enables Joburg to compete comparatively with international peers from across the globe and to stay ahead of the curve on the African continent.

Each camera has a clear lens that can zoom in accurately up to two kilometres. The time and date on which a crime is committed is recorded, and this is permitted as evidence in court. “The cameras report incidents as they happen, tracking and tracing criminals through their paces," says Minnaar.

A camera on the roof of Martindale gives operators a helicopter view of the city, covering a distance of about 2 kilometres from its location. There's also a viewing room for investigators to analyse video evidence.

The CCTVs are located strategically at crime hotspots and strategic areas, including access routes into the CBD, Vilakazi Street, Mayfair, Fordsburg, Joubert Park, Doornfontein, as well as Auckland Park, Selby and busy intersections.

In future, the surveillance system will be upgraded to incorporate facial recognition and will be expanded to cover all regions of the City.

Although Minnaar concedes that the police still deal with petty crime, he says there have been about 52 arrests since a new reaction unit was launched less than two months ago.

“The CCTVs have helped reduce crime in the inner city tremendously. The reaction unit is much quicker. Over time, the public can expect to see less crime in the CBD," Minnaar says confidently.