Amid calls for greater police accountability in South Africa, Cape Town’s law enforcement officers are now being equipped with body-worn cameras and in-vehicle cameras with Automated Number Plate (ANPR) technology.

This rollout is the first of its kind in South Africa and forms part of the City of Cape Town’s R860 million safety technology investment over the next three years to make the city safer, it said.

“The city will equip 800 of our officers with bodycams and install 290 in-vehicle dashboard-mounted cameras or ‘dashcams’ this financial year,” said Mayor Geordin Hill-Lewis.

“In the next couple of years, this technology will be standard across our safety services to make Cape Town safer,” he added.

Cape Town piloted ANPR dashcams with the city’s new Highway Patrol Unit launched last year. Based on these learnings, the city is now rolling out in-vehicle cameras across all its vehicles.

“Together with body-worn cameras, this will massively enhance situational awareness and the quality of evidence gathering to ensure more convictions,” the city said.

It added that this will also increase trust and accountability in the municipal police and law enforcement, as interactions with the public will now always be recorded.

“We want Cape Town’s safety services to be trusted by the public, even while trust in other law enforcement agencies is declining. There is also global evidence which shows a steep drop in attacks on law enforcement officers after the introduction of these cameras,” said Hill-Lewis.

Cape Town’s R86o million safety tech investment over the next three years includes:

  • R118.4 million on CCTV;
  • R118 million on Dash and body cams;
  • R109 million for Aerial surveillance;
  • R22 million on drones;
  • R10 million on gunshot location tech; and
  • R442 million on Licence Plate Recognition, EPIC digital coordination, radios, comms systems, IT and network upgrades.

The full rollout of an in-vehicle camera solution will now enable officers to record evidence of incidents as they happen while also streaming live video to the control rooms for enhanced situational awareness of critical incidents, the city said.

“Digital evidence is vital in the prosecution of offenders, and we are expecting the body-worn cameras on officers to provide crucial footage that can be used in court, ensuring a higher rate of successful convictions,” added Hill-Lewis.

He further noted that bodycams will also enhance officer safety by increasing situational awareness and serving as a deterrent to potential perpetrators of assault on officers.

The cameras will also act as a safeguard for the public and city staff, particularly in situations where claims are made against officers, helping to maintain transparency and accountability thanks to independent footage that can be viewed in court.

With this additional form of evidence, courts can instantly rule on matters, having to now only rely on a ‘single version of the truth.’ In turn, this will greatly impact the prosecution process and conviction rate of matters brought to trial, the city said.