The Nelson Mandela Bay Metropolitan Municipality has purchased a R6 million mobile surveillance vehicle (MSV) from Carl Zeiss Optronics (CZO) and partner Afrisec to help it in its fight against crimes such as metal theft that has cost the metro R9 million in its last financial year.
City assistant director for security services Andre du Toit says the municipality suffered damages of R3 million in just one recent incident when thieves stripped metal from a high tension power pylon that then collapsed in subsequent high wind and pulled down 3km of cable. Du Toit adds that during a trial deployment of the MSV in the metro that includes Port Elizabeth, Uitenhage and Despatch, three thieves were arrested within the first hour.
“An officer on foot and patrol cars is not the answer anymore” Du Toit says, adding technology is now necessary to defeat organised metal stripping syndicates.
CZO says some 250 similar systems are already in use, primarily in Europe, where it is generally used for covert border surveillance. CZO managing director (MD) Kobus Viljoen says state arms procurement agency Armscor, the SA National Defence Force and the national police service have shown interest in the system for general crime fighting and border surveillance. Officials are expected at the CZO plant in Centurion next week. CZO is 30% Denel-owned.
“With the increased global emphasis on security and border control, we are pleased to be at the forefront of surveillance technology which will aid border control and crime fighting operations in South Africa,” avers Viljoen. He adds “the idea with our equipment is to use less manpower, but be twice as efficient and cut costs…”
The first South African-built MSV is based on the Mercedes Sprinter 4×4 platform and provides long range, 360° day and night surveillance capability, even under adverse weather conditions.
The MSV features a mast-mounted daylight charge-coupled device (CCD) camera with 36x zoom lens, high-resolution thermal imager (TI) for night surveillance and an eye-safe laser rangefinder for intruder position location. A typical TI can track a walking man at 10km and can identify one with a firearm at 3km. The camera has a range of about 7km. The sensor mast collapses into the vehicle roof and is controlled by operators in the vehicle’s control compartment. Any suspicious activities get displayed on a digital map to aid reaction forces to locate the suspects, CZO Land/Handheld Systems Programme Manager Roberto Bruzzaniti explained.
To reduce operator fatigue, the MSV utilises sensor automation, proprietary software-driven automatic intruder movement detection, intruder tracking, and situational recording,” Bruzzaniti adds. Video footage can also be send to a central control room by datalink for remote observation. For under-cover operations the vehicle is fitted with a driver’s thermal camera, which enables the vehicle to be positioned to a strategic location in total darkness without use of its headlights.
Afrisec MD Gary Johnson says part of the brief to his company was that the MSV needed to communicate with the existing Mandela Bay central control room, which Afrisec had designed and implemented. Operators there will be able to monitor the thermal images from the mobile unit and the operators in the vehicle will be able to select and monitor from the existing 350 surveillance cameras already installed by Afrisec in the central business district and various municipal buildings.