Authorities have been criticised for failing gang-torn areas like Helenvale, so Nelson Mandela Bay’s new Shotspotter technology offers hope in dealing with this intractable problem.
More than 20 sensors have been up since late October in the R3-million pilot project in this part of the northern areas to pick up when guns are fired. And, in the first 47 days alone, Shotspotter recorded a staggering 823 shots within a 1km radius, which works out on average to between 17 and 18 shots a day.
It’s hard to believe these numbers, but they do illustrate the scale of this issue: people who live in Helenvale have to endure a war zone.
They and their children are likely to hear gunfire nearly every waking hour, which in turn must take its toll on their mental health and physical safety.
It is completely unacceptable that a community should be confronted with this level of violence.
Of course it will take more than Shotspotter to stop crime.
The technology is only part of the municipality’s focus on the northern areas where mayor Athol Trollip says around 30 different gangs operate. So far it has only translated into 10 arrests and it is too early to speak of any convictions.
However, this is not a battle to be won overnight and it is commendable that the technology is active and producing encouraging results.
The high number of shots heard, however, does beg the question: where do all the bullets come from?
Given the abundance of illegal firearms, we would not be surprised to learn they also are illegally sourced.
Safety and security political head John Best sees the project as one way to fight gangsterism in the city and, certainly, in an area where the residents may turn a deaf ear to gunshots, let alone crimes committed with guns, it will be a useful tool.
However, a stronger police presence on the ground is also essential and the new police station mooted for the city’s northern areas cannot come quickly enough.