As gunshots ring out in one of South Africa’s most dangerous neighborhoods, a new technology detects the gun’s location and immediately alerts police.
South Africa is the first country outside the United States to implement the gunshot detector audio technology, which is also being used to fight wildlife poaching on the other end of the country in Kruger National Park.
The technology’s use in Cape Town’s notoriously violent Cape Flats area has contributed for the first time in 2018 to a conviction in a gang shooting. Police hope more will follow.
“About 13 percent of gunshots are reported by the public. Now we respond to every single incident, very rapidly,” said Cape Town Alderman J.P. Smith, who instituted the technology in the Manenberg and Hanover Park neighborhoods in 2016. “It’s accurate to between 2 meters and 10 meters (6 feet to 33 feet) of where the shot was fired.”
The recovery of illegal guns has jumped fivefold in the areas where the shotspotter is used, Smith said. The technology also provides accurate data about gun violence.
The technology operates by acoustic sensors, which are placed throughout a neighborhood. Cape Town plans to expand its use from the current 7 square kilometers to 18 square kilometers.
South Africa has one of the highest rates of murder in the world. In September 2018, police announced that the rate was up about 7 percent, with 20,336 people murdered between April 2017 and March 2018, compared to 19,016 in the previous year. Many were linked to gang violence in Western Cape province, whose capital is Cape Town.
The national homicide rate of 34 per 100,000 people spikes in parts of the Cape Flats to 250 per 100,000, according to the University of Cape Town.
“Violence begets violence,” said University of Cape Town criminologist Guy Lamb. “Since 1994 we’ve had high levels of unemployment, poverty, inequality. and these dynamics have fed into the high violent crime rate.”
One Manenberg resident, Shakier Adams, explained what life is like on the Cape Flats.
“Growing up, you are literally caught in crossfire on a daily basis. You have to be careful who you speak to, where you go, whoever you associate yourself with.” The Associated Press