SafeCity - Safe City


Let’s turn the tide together so that “safe” is not just a four-letter word
Vumacam CEO Ricky Croock rallies all South Africans to tackle the crime epidemic.

In South Africa, the words “is it safe?” are probably used far more regularly than in most places. But we don’t mean things like “Is it safe to go outside in a thunderstorm?” or, “It’s not safe to play in traffic.” When we ask if it is safe for teenagers to go to a party or, to drive on a dark road at night, we understand the usual risks. Sadly, we also know that at any moment we can have our lives changed by the violent crime that plagues our country.

While we believe in everything our country has to offer, statistics show that we also live in one of the world’s most dangerous countries, we are not safe and that’s the foundation on which we start each day.  

This reality is unacceptable in a paradise with endless beauty, bountiful resources, and endless possibilities. But the daily threat of crime robs us of lives, livelihoods and what we work so hard to earn. It stops business in its tracks and robs us of our ability to thrive and live in peace. Crime and criminals make our country THEIR paradise and destroy the meaning of “safe.” 
South Africans have varying levels of access to tools that make us feel safer – there are those with alarm systems, private security companies, car trackers and those who have little to protect their homes; who don’t have alarms but rely on neighbourhood groups and communities and the strained resources of SAPS. Parents have to hope that their children will make it home safely from school or when using public transport.  
Safety is a basic human need, and a right enshrined in our constitution. But for most, it’s not a given but rather, an ambition … something that we aspire to, but which we have very little control over.  
The impact is devastating – physically, economically, and mentally. How long should we remain victims? Who are the people who should change what we have adapted to as our “normal.” The government? Police? Business? Our private security companies? The courts? Our community groups? Our politicians? Us as individuals?
The truth is, dealing with crime is so engrained in us that it will take an extraordinary effort from all of us if we want things to change.
I’m super positive about our country – but we need to be proactive and not put our heads in the sand and hope it will all go away.
We are being killed, held hostage, shot at, raped, and kidnapped. Our infrastructure is being destroyed, businesses are being robbed and looted, and our police are trying to ward off criminals without the basic tools for the job, let alone access to advanced technology available globally. Our private security companies have had to invest heavily to access such tools and while we have pockets of “well protected” areas, everyone traverses outside these bubbles where there is no cover.
I have been involved in fighting crime most of my life and one thing has always been apparent – there is success and progress made in pockets, but this is often quickly eroded by a failure in areas not afforded the same level of expertise or service. And that keeps me up at night.
When I started Vumacam, it was with a view of using CCTV cameras and technology to support private security companies and the SAPS. While it has been immensely successful in Gauteng, where we concentrated our efforts to prove the model of a city-wide smart camera network, but there are still gaps where criminals can hide. We need your help to close them.
Today, Vumacam is the country’s largest CCTV and security technology operator. We have engaged with various municipalities to allow us to expand into new regions and we will strive to deliver a national rollout of Vumacam infrastructure, one municipality at a time.
This year we launched SafeCity – an initiative that connects our private security partners and public law enforcement. SafeCity Partners can now access the full Vumacam network to gain the city-wide situational awareness critical to understanding criminal patterns and movements, assist with crime prevention and investigations and have the backup and support of SAPS when they need it most.
Our common technology platform has been purpose-built to enable this collaboration with the support of hi-tech systems designed to combat crime more effectively safely, and efficiently.
The first phase is Vumacam’s support of E2 – an official, coordinated joint crime fighting initiative between the South African Police Service (SAPS), Business Against Crime South Africa (BACSA) and the Private Security Industry (PSI). It uses CCTV, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and analytics to drive a highly coordinated, agile response to crimes in progress and criminal investigations.
Where we have our cameras, and a crime is being committed, or a vehicle of interest (VOI) passes by, an alert is triggered in private security control rooms and the E2 Fusion Centre. Algorithms and artificial intelligence drive the ability to detect suspicious behaviour and create system alerts – whether it’s someone being attacked, a weapon alert, abandoned objects, infrastructure being vandalised, or even an accident or a tree falling. Our License Plate Recognition (LPR) cameras flag VOI that have been involved in crimes or suspected crimes. Across our network we are averaging around 28 000 VOI alerts a day.
We’ve also made privacy a priority, and we believe that globally, our systems are best-in-class in terms of securing data and protecting privacy.
Private funding also enables us to add more cameras into under-resourced areas, allowing protection for broader communities. We cannot accept that securing our home or community is only accessible for wealthier South Africans. Building a seamless network that allows people to move across a city in safe zones is the only viable way to protect people longer term. While research shows that crime in our country is at the highest levels yet, it also shows that people feel safer where CCTV is in place and when there is collaboration. We recently conducted research in Gauteng, where our smart camera network is most comprehensive, which showed that 99% of respondents have been impacted by crime at some point in their lives. 83% of respondents expressed fear for their personal safety. On average, the majority of respondents supported the concept of SafeCity, and more collaboration between the SAPS and private security companies with the use of technology. 87% of respondents said they would like to see more coordinated public security initiatives to combat criminal behaviour. To view the full research report, follow this link – The SafeCity Research Report
Creating SafeCity initiatives across the country means that safety is not just a privilege for some, but a right for all. We can achieve this by using smart technology to drive safe outcomes. It allows us all to become active role players in preventing and reporting crime, it allows public resources to benefit from private support and for collaboration to have effective outcomes.
What can you do? 
  • Support and contribute to your security company’s SafeCity drive – this assists us in setting up cameras in new areas or providing more coverage in your area.It allows your security company access to the city-wide network to investigate crimes committed not only at your residence or in your suburb, but across the city – perhaps where you, family or staff study, work, visit or travel.  
  • In addition, it supports the E2 Fusion Centre and ensures that SAPS and private security companies can collaborate to apprehend and arrest criminals.  
  • Ask your security company if they are a SafeCity member and if not, ask them to sign up. 
  • Actively report crimes when you see them happen to SAPS or to a security company in your area. 
  • Take down details (number plates or clothing descriptions) when criminal activity is suspected and pass this on to SAPS or your security company. 
  • Develop community support – know your Neighbours’ contact numbers and establish a process for reporting crime or providing support if someone is in need.  
  • Set up neighborhood groups to walk children to and from school or to and from public transport. 
  • Make use of apps such as Aura to quickly call for help or report crime and send help to a direct location. 
  • Where your education, training, or expertise could assist crime fighting in our country, volunteer your services to SAPS or Community Policing Forums. 
This fight will need all of us standing together – however we are able – whether by using specialist knowledge and skills, committing to report crime taking place or building community efforts to tackle crime and create networks of support.
As Vumacam, we have taken what I believe is one progressive step in tackling crime and I look forward to standing proudly with other experts, leaders and citizens across the country who choose to play their role. Allowing “safe” to mean something tangible not just for some but for everyone in our beautiful country.