With a recent wave of highly publicised attempted child snatchings, panic levels in South Africa are at an all-time high. Human trafficking is a terrifying global problem that goes beyond gender, race and socio-economic circumstances. It can happen anywhere, anytime – even close to home – and when it does happen the consequences are devastating. Because children and teenagers are most often the victims of human trafficking, it is critical that we take steps to ensure the opportunities for such crimes are minimised by making public places safer with technology.
Arming our malls and public recreational facilities with the right technology can help to make families feel more secure and improve police investigative effectivity, enabling any such kidnapping incidents to be investigated timeously in the hopes of a better outcome. The right combination of ultra-high-resolution cameras in the right places, coupled with intelligent video analytics, make it possible to visually identify both the target and the perpetrator. This gives police a head start in their investigation and assists with charging and prosecuting human trafficking offenders.
Security means visibility
It is imperative for shopping malls, airports, and recreational facilities like play places and children’s party venues to get a handle on visibility with surveillance technology. In situations where child safety is a concern (and it should be a concern for all venues, whether public or privately-owned) conventional high-definition surveillance cameras are not sufficient. In order to be effective, it is important that surveillance systems consist of, at the very least, a combination of ultra-high definition (or “4K”) cameras in conjunction with a video management system (VMS) and intelligent video analytics.
The number of cameras required will depend on each location’s exact layout, risk areas and security requirements, but in public places it is prudent to gain total visibility over entrances and exits, parking lots and the areas outside rest rooms. 4K cameras are vital in surveillance, as these cameras can capture higher quality footage with the additional benefit of up to four times more detail at full 25 frames per second (fps) than today’s top full HD 1080p cameras and legacy 10MP cameras. This allows operators to electronically zoom in to areas of the picture without losing detail, making these cameras ideal for public area surveillance and especially useful in post-event playback.
Adding urgency to investigations
Unfortunately, authorities are often only alerted to kidnapping or child trafficking incidents after the fact. Faced with the daunting task of extracting information from a glut of video footage, police are usually forced to waste valuable time trying to piece together what happened. With intelligent VMS and powerful video analytics, authorities can instantly check post-event footage based on the criteria they are searching for, such as picking up movement in a specific area of the frame, finding all people in a red jacket that crossed a certain point, headed in a certain direction. What would usually take hours to accomplish, can now be achieved in a few minutes, improving efficiency and increasing the effectiveness of response actions.
The benefits of UHD-resolution cameras that are visibly located in open, busy or public spaces is that criminals will be deterred, knowing that their actions will be captured on CCTV. Even more so with the rapid advancement of bolt-on facial recognition software that is powered by Artificial Intelligence (AI). While the technology exists, it has not yet reached the necessary maturity that enables widespread consumer availability and affordability. More often than not, UHD-resolution cameras do not have built in analytics. However, it is up to the authorities to acquire the appropriate bolt-on facial recognition software, which means that price would put it beyond the reach of most venues.
As such, it would be more cost-effective to upgrade any legacy cameras to 4K cameras. A well-designed VMS with 4K cameras will allow for unique adaptive streaming of these cameras while keeping bandwidth usage low and ensuring that the footage captured is of a sufficient resolution to enable post-event footage to be passed on to investigating authorities. This footage can then be run through facial recognition software which can help to identify suspects or find missing persons – this technology is capable of identifying or verifying a person from a digital image or video frame from a video source. This will help immensely in investigating such incidents, identifying suspects and will have a positive effect on the successful prosecution of child trafficking offenders.
Ultimately, if we are to collectively combat or even minimise the incidents of child abductions in South Africa, drastic measures need to be taken, starting with the placement of visible and effective surveillance operations in busy public spaces and building up to a point in the (hopefully not too distant) future where we are able to build smarter, safer cities based on smart policing and intelligently interlinked CCTV systems across the country. As a result, human trafficking syndicates will no longer be able avoid the eyes of the law.
By Laurence Smith, Executive at Graphic Image Technologies