SMILE, YOU'RE ON CAMERA: CCTV SYSTEM FOR NAIROBI

Computing

During investigations into last month's London bombings, images from surveillance cameras swiftly identified the attackers.

Similar images led to the arrest of another group suspected of being responsible for a botched bombing attack days later.

Plans are under way to have Nairobi covered by similar security cameras.

Already, some key streets and strategic locations in the city centre have had camera's installed in a Sh400 million project sponsored by the Nairobi Central Business District Association, police and the Nairobi city council.

A consultant for the project, Mr Simiyu Werunga, says more cameras will be installed in the coming few weeks.

Retired captain Werunga is the director of the East African Institute of Security Studies.

The project involves the installation of a camera which is to be linked to central closed-circuit television observation centres, from where it will monitor people's activities in selected areas.

An observation centre is already operational at International House, with cameras monitoring Mama Ngina Street, City Hall Way and the Kencom bus stage.

In June, police at the building's observation post caught on camera a man attempting to steal a parked car.

Another police team on patrol was alerted and the man was arrested.

Also to be on camera is to be the notorious crime spot on Kenyatta Avenue between Serena Hotel and Uhuru Park.

The association's chairman Francis Kahura says that although setting up the cameras is not so expensive, managing the control room and the material gathered is not cheap. It would therefore be unrealistic to place the entire responsibility on police, he said, adding that the private sector must play a role.

City firm Kenya Data Networks has offered to host the network through its wireless and fibre optic technologies.

Police have for a long time pushed for the installation of closed-circuit cameras in buildings and along the streets to help with monitoring and detecting crime.

Banks, supermarkets, forex bureaux and travel agencies which have been a main target of armed robbery, have increased the use of surveillance cameras.

When armed gangsters stormed the Blue Seas forex bureau in Kimathi Street and walked away with Sh21 million in February, last year, cameras in the building recorded the raid.

Other cameras monitoring the street from a building opposite recorded the robbers as they went into and out of the bureau as well as their colleagues who kept watch from a parked car.

Police analysed the images that included that of a gunman stripping a security guard of his uniform, putting it on and then ushering in unsuspecting staff.

Such images also helped police to identify a gang that raided a casino in Westlands, Nairobi, in 2002.

A gang that stormed Equatorial Bank on Loita Street and grabbed Sh700,000 in July, last year, was also caught on camera. Seven suspects were later identified and arrested after the bank gave police the video images.

CID director Joseph Kamau told the Sunday Nation that security across the the country would be greatly boosted if more surveillance cameras were used.

"It would make a great difference if cameras were installed around the city and monitored from a central point because the information can be passed onto officers on patrol," he said. "This would greatly prevent and reduce incidents of crime."

Adds police spokesman Jasper Ombati: "Descriptions of criminals, their movements and escape routes would easily be communicated to those pursuing them."

London has more such cameras than any other major city in the world. There are at least 500,000 of them in the city, and as a study has shown in one day alone a person could be filmed more than 300 times in the British capital.

The elaborate camera system is relied on by the British police to solve and deter crime and boost traffic safety.

It has been used in many incidents of murder, abduction, rape, assault and robbery. Many private cameras in the city's banks and offices have been incorporated into the overall system, which is called the Camera Watch and monitored by police.

Similar systems are used in other busy areas such as the Oxford Street shopping district, around government offices at Westminster and at popular tourist areas.

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