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Eye-in-the-Sky: Cape Town’s new crime-fighting secret weapon

The City of Cape Town demonstrated its powerful new crime-fighting aerial surveillance technology during a staged search, rescue and car chase scenario on Monday, 6 May. On hand to observe was Premier Alan Winde, Mayor Geordin Hill-Lewis, and Alderman JP Smith, Mayoral Committee Member for Safety and Security. 

The City’s information, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) technology will take information gathering to the next level in the fight against gang incidents, poaching, stolen vehicles, vegetation fires, and various criminal activities.

ISR, commonly referred to as EyeintheSky, is a two-seater piloted aircraft fitted with state of the art cameras to provide high-definition aerial imagery for smarter policing operations.

 The aircraft can fly higher than a drone, and is fitted with infrared cameras, allowing it to register the heat resonating from a recently fired firearm, body heat in cold water, or even the wheels of a speeding vehicle.

‘I am impressed by Eye-in-the-Sky’s crime fighting capability, which will give the edge to our 1 300 new officers we have deployed via the LEAP partnership between the Western Cape Government and City. This morning’s demonstration showed how the City is able to carry out a search, rescue, and chase operation using integrated technology, from aerial surveillance, to bodycams on officers, and licence-plate recognition cameras along highways. This is a big step towards smarter policing, where technology is better utilised,’ said Premier Winde.

‘Welcome to the future of crime fighting in Cape Town! I can’t wait to see this Eye-in-the-sky technology in use alongside the other tech we are investing in, including drones, dashcams, bodycams, gunshot detection, licence-plate recognition cameras, and EPIC – the master digital coordination systems for all City crime prevention. The City is investing R610m in various safety tech over three years, having already invested R200m in the current financial year.

‘But crucially, all of our investments cannot substitute for a well-functioning police service. That’s why we have to also keep fighting for the devolution of more policing powers, especially the power for our officers to investigate crime,’ said Mayor Hill-Lewis.

‘The ISR technology has the versatility to cover larger geographical areas, stay in the air for longer periods doing reconnaissance flights, and is less weather dependent than drones.

We are excited about the prospects of this secret weapon, especially in combatting drug-dealing, gun violence and gang activity. The aircraft will also assist with improving rapid response time by officers during planned operations as precise information can be relayed.

‘Recently on 30 April, the City’s Eye-in-the-Sky closely recorded poachers in Hout Bay from kilometres away, enabling a raid on the startled criminals at their residence nearby. Over 3 000 crayfish and a high-powered boat was seized, with the entire crime documented for prosecution,’ said Mayoral Committee Member for Safety and Security, Alderman JP Smith.

The Eye-in-the-Sky aircraft is a Cessna 337, piloted by trained, experienced professionals. The City intends the technology’s use to help in other instances beyond enforcement, including the monitoring of high voltage lines, vandalism of vital infrastructure, coastal impact and biodiversity related issues.

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