License Plate Recognition (LPR) Camera Project

A PWP Neighbourhood Watch Initiative

Nov 2015


Who is PWP?

PWP is a neighbourhood watch staffed by volunteer residents from the Panorama, Welgelegen, Plattekloof and Kleinbosch areas. The function of PWP is to be the eyes and ears of the police and private security companies working in our area. We do not engage criminals directly but regularly patrol and watch our roads, alleys, public spaces and parks and report suspicious or illegal activities to the relevant authorities for immediate action.

What is License Plate Recognition (LPR) and how does this help in the fight against crime?

Criminals are highly organised. They more often than not use vehicles when committing serious crime in our area as vehicles also allow them quick access to and exit from our area as well as a means to transport stolen items.

Public cameras can be used to monitor certain areas and hence aid the detection/ prevention of possible crime. Unfortunately we can’t have cameras everywhere, nor can we monitor these cameras all the time. LPR tries to bridge part of this gap in that cameras are strategically placed to monitor traffic, with latest technology used to filter the information flowing from the camera and reporting red flags.

So at a very general level, LPR is simply the use of cameras and technology to help identify when unwanted vehicles enter the area, and then alert the respective individuals who are positioned to deal with crime.

So how does this work? Cameras are placed at strategic entrances and exits to (and sometimes within) an area with a view of the road and via license plate recognition (LPR) software read and record the license plate numbers of vehicles entering and exiting the area on a networked computer database called the LPR User Group.

There is a real time comparison of the identified license plate number against a database of vehicles known to be or suspected to be involved in criminal activity (e.g. vehicles that have been flagged as stolen, hijacked, used in crime or suspected to be involved in crime). The data within LPR User Group stems from either the SAPS crime reporting system or from reports by operators in other areas forming part of an LPR User Group.

Operators are automatically alerted by the system should such a flagged vehicle enter their area, allowing them to alert local security companies to its presence and to attempt to intercept the vehicle given information about its position or direction of travel. This process therefore aids the apprehension of perpetrators by the police and private security companies.

Many other areas in Cape Town have already implemented LPR systems which together form a comprehensive network of cameras across the city making it more difficult for criminals to move from one area to the next without being detected.

Reports are generated automatically and camera control room monitors do not need to be continuously manned. This form of ‘black-screen monitoring’ means that significantly less resources are required to monitor the cameras and that these resources can be applied elsewhere to fight crime.

The system works night and day and in most weather conditions.

Will this STOP crime?

LPR is not the silver bullet for crime prevention, and certainly won’t stop crime. However looking at the results noted from other neighbourhood watches, the LPR technology has definitely had a positive impact in reducing crime. Criminals focus on vulnerabilities, and will therefore prefer to work areas where there is less resistance to crime, and hence a further reason to ensure the PWP area applies latest technologies in crime prevention.

The Task Team see the implementation of the LPR system as a very important step in the fight against crime. Information is a vital component in addressing crime, and LPR certainly does provide relevant real-time information to the appropriate people.

The fight against crime needs to happen on a number of levels, and LPR is only one component of this.

The involvement of local security companies, SAPS and other role players

Because of the need to monitor and respond to alerts produced by the LPR system we have approached all the private security companies operating in the PWP area to assist in this initiative. District Watch, as a prominent role player in the area, have offered to set up the necessary monitoring infrastructure in their control room. Reports would however go out simultaneously to all the recognised security companies operating in our area as well as to the SAPS who all support the initiative and have committed to respond to reports.

Where did this project start?

PWP were made aware of the LPR initiative taking place in neighbouring areas and investigated accordingly. This led to a Community Briefing on the 5 Mar 2015 during which the concept of using LPR technology to address crime was presented.

At this meeting a number of community members indicated their willingness to support the project. PWP then approached the volunteers to form a Task Team to investigate this as an option for the PWP area.

Who is on the Task Team?

The following residents (together with their background) currently serve on the Task Team:
• Chris Cooke (Chairperson – Business and Finance)
• Dewald Opperman (Legal)
• Glen Peiser (IT)
• Zeca Ramos (Electronic Eng, Business)
• Petrus Rossouw (Medical doctor)
• Gary van Zyl (Business and Finance)
• Richard Kershaw (Distribution, Business)
• Ricardo Sieni (Finance, Project Management, Business)
• Joan Smith (PWP)
• Willem van der Merwe (PWP)
• James Slabber (Councillor)

As we move into the next phase of the project, there will be additional needs in respective of IT (web design), marketing and operational skills.

What is the longer term plan?

The vision is to have an integrated program dealing with crime, vagrants, cleanliness and general services within the area to maintain an environment that makes this one of the best places to live. Such a program would be supported by the entire community and funded through a Special Rating Area (SRA) where municipal rates will be marginally increased with this additional payment fully allocated, and controlled by PWP, for services within the area.

The process of setting up a SRA is a tedious one and requires agreement from at least 60% of the residents. We currently have around 5 000 households in the PWP area, so this is no small challenge.

The vision will take time to realise but in the interim we believe moving forward with the LPR project is the appropriate step and will have a very positive impact in reducing crime. Knowing that it will take time to spread the message, get people on board and raise the necessary funds, we have broken the project into 2 phases.

The next challenge is very simply to get residents on board and obtain the necessary pledges/ donations. How we plan to take this forward is covered in the question below.

How do we take this initiative forward and what is required?

At the initial Community Briefing on 5 Mar we had around 70 residents. At the recent briefing (29 Oct 2015) some 242 resident completed the register. There were some residents who did not register, and we estimate the attendance to be around 300. Furthermore there were quite a few residents that tendered their apologies given prior commitments. The PWP Facebook page has around 1,800 members.

It was very pleasing to see the Tygerberg Northlink College Auditorium filled with interested community members.

The task for all residents is to spread the LPR message, and more importantly get people to complete the Pledge forms. It is only once we have the required financial support can we actually start implementation of the LPR equipment and controls.

The Task Team will be focusing on aiding this process by creating a web page, including information on Facebook, providing written documentation to empower residents with appropriate information as well as tracking details of the pledges received to date.

To this end, we are in need of residents who can assist with web page design and other forms of communication infrastructure to ensure the appropriate channel of communication are open.

Why not start small, and keep adding 1 camera at a time?

A typical suggestion put forward, is why not start small and keep adding 1 camera at a time. This does make sense it getting the ball rolling and allowing resident to see progress before committing their support to the project, however LPR is not simply the installation of cameras. The IT infrastructure supporting the system is critical in order that information is monitored and managed.

The installation of a camera without the supporting technology renders the system ineffective. As a minimum we need cameras to secure the perimeter, a server to process and store information, communication infrastructure to ensure data is passed on to the relevant users and a control room for this infrastructure to be securely stored.

How much will this project cost and where will the funding come from?

Following the investigations done by the Task Team, a proposed solution was put forward. The full solution having an estimated cost of R1.3m, and if this was split into 2 phases, the first phase would cost approximately R862 000. The Council have offered funding in the order of R120 000, which leaves a fair amount to be raised by the residents and commercial enterprises in the area.

The Task Team will engage with various role players in the area, but essentially the resident will need to share the burden of this funding.

There will be maintenance and other on-going costs, and the Task Team will prepare the necessary budgets to ensure the sustainability of this project.

What happens to your contributions?

All contributions are to be paid into the bank account of the PWP Neighbourhood Watch, a Non-Profit Organisation registered with the Department of Community Safety under reference number DCS 11/1/5 – NHW CL 22/04. They are a regulated entity under the Non-Profit Organisations Act 71 of 1997 and as such are subjected to a number of financial and reporting controls, checks and balances.

The money collected in this way will only be used under direction of the Task Team and only for purposes of this project. The Task Team will also regularly account to all contributors in terms of the application of the funds. Having the donations in the bank will increase the momentum of this project, and we therefore encourage residents to make payments as soon as possible into the indicated bank account. If the project does not go ahead, all physical payments received to date will be refunded to the respective individuals.

Who owns the camera infrastructure acquired?

Although there are many roll players involved in the funding, installation and management of the system, the camera infrastructure (apart from that funded by the City Council) will be owned by the PWP Neighbourhood Watch Non-Profit Organisation for and on behalf of the residents of the Plattekloof, Welgelegen, Panorama and Kleinbosch area.

What happened to the Plattekloof Gated Community Project?

A few years back the residents of Plattekloof embarked on a journey to have the Municipality approve Plattekloof as a gated community with controlled access. This was driven by a Committee made up of Plattekloof residents.

The LPR project is not driven out of this gated community project, and is a totally separate PWP initiative. We understand that there are concerns around this earlier project, and we have been engaging with those leading the gated community project to obtain feedback as well as their thinking in terms of the way forward.

At this point a formal meeting has been set up for early 2016, but indications are that the Gated Community Committee has had a few rounds of negotiations with the Municipality and they are still moving ahead with the project.

Can you help?

YES – spread the message to all resident, and get them to submit their pledges and contact information to PWP.

If we assume 250 residents are already engaged, and we all bring on 1 more engaged resident, we then have 10% of the residents on board. If each of this group then brings on board 1 additional contributor, we have 1000 contributors (or 20% of residents)!

Download Pledge Form

We do need additional resources, largely in the form of:
• Website administrator / graphic designers and related IT skills to ensure we have the appropriate communication/ interaction platforms
• Operationally skilled people who can run with various sub-projects that need the necessary coordination and drive
• People who are comfortable meeting with residents or groups of people to explain LPR and get additional buy in.

How much should I contribute?

With an initial budget of R1.3m, and 5 000 households in the area, an average contribution of R360 per household would do the trick. Unfortunately things don’t work as simple as this, largely given the practicalities around having every resident on board.

Waiting for full community involvement is not a realistic approach, and hence we need to consider an alternative approach to ensure we can get initial traction with respect to implementation of phase 1 of the LPR project. From this point it should be a lot easier to get more community involvement and ultimately spread the cost over the correct base.

Looking at simple mathematics, we set out two paths that will allow phase 1 to commence.
• Each of the 250 engaged residents obtains 1 additional contributor, giving us 500 households. Each household contributing R500 for 3 months, plus the R120 000 from Council would give us R870 000.
• Each of the 250 engaged residents obtains 1 additional contributor, and then each one in this group do the same again giving us 1 000 contributors. A R750 contribution from each household will again allow us to get to the phase 1 target of R870 000.

To date, contributions received have averaged at just over R1 000.

How do I support this and other crime fighting initiatives?

This project is a non-starter without our community. To support this initiative please make use of the Pledge form attached.

It is appreciated that buy in takes time, but the goal is to obtain 60% of the community’s buy-in, so the more each of us are involved, the better the probability of PWP effecting the proposed changes.

Should you wish to join one of our many crime prevention initiatives or become a member of the PWP Neighbourhood Watch patrolling teams please contact us at:

Get involved. Have your say. Make a difference.

Your Community needs YOU!!!