Cape Town fights crime with drones, acoustic technology, and smartphones

Cape Town is leading the way in using technology to fight crime, which includes drones, acoustic technology that identifies and locates gunfire, and a mobile alert system tracing criminals.

One of the city’s valuable tools is ShotSpotter, which was implemented as a crime prevention tool to reduce gun violence and murders in Manenberg and Hanover Park.

“Where CCTV looks at crime, the ShotSpotter listens to crime,” said JP Smith, mayoral committee member for safety and security.

When a shot goes off, ShotSpotter triangulates the location – allowing officers to respond within two minutes of it being fired.

The officers also receive a text message with a link to the audio file on their phones, which means police on the ground have more information to work with.

The response time from law enforcement has been brought down from an hour to 10 minutes after ShotSpotter was implemented.

Fighting gun crime

Rounds Counted

ShotSpotter is effective in limiting gun crime, with Smith stating that after they implemented the solution, the number of incidents dropped from 128 per month to 31 per month.

“Although we would need to analyse shooting patterns over a longer period to accurately quantify the impact, the initial success of the technology has been stunning,” said Smith.

The graphic above, courtesy of Carte Blanche, shows how ShotSpotter has reduced gun crime through police intervention.

In a recent Carte Blanche interview, Smith said 54 guns have been removed from the streets in seven months – a figure that was previously achieved over a six-year period.

Metro Police senior superintendent Kesavan Chetty said the combination of CCTV and ShotSpotter helps combat crime and keep officers safe.

Drones are the next step

The city also uses drones to complement its existing technology solutions to track criminals.

The City of Cape Town has already tested the use of surveillance drones to track and observe fleeing suspects, and is now looking at expanding the drone project.

“The next step is to link drones to ShotSpotter. You can manually get the drone to respond to the shooting and then follow the criminal home,” said Smith.

The city’s drones can stay airborne for several hours, which means they can also respond to incidents and record footage, said Smith.

Besides police operations, drones can be used to check for fire breaks, coordinate and monitor disaster response, and manage traffic.

Cape Town also plans to use a fixed-wing push prop drone for anti-metal theft operations in Philippi.


ShotSpotter in action

The images below show ShotSpotter in action, with incident locations and hotspots of gun crime provided.

Shotspotter Control Room

Shotspotter location

Shotspotter Heat Map


Drones in action

The City of Cape Town documented its drone testing and provided MyBroadband with the photos below.

All photo credits: Bruce Sutherland, City of Cape Town.

RPAS tests for the City of Cape Town

RPAS tests for the City of Cape Town

RPAS tests for the City of Cape Town

RPAS tests for the City of Cape Town

RPAS tests for the City of Cape Town


Now read: Watch drones fight crime in the City of Cape Town

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Cape Town fights crime with drones, acoustic technology, and smartphones