Some of Cape Town’s busiest roads, leading to one of the wealthiest suburbs, are now being secured with an automated Licence Plate Recognition system installed by LPR Solutions. At its heart is a network of 42 sophisticated day/night cameras from Hikvision, whose iVMS video management software streams the video data to the LPR software. The increased surveillance has led to a dramatic drop in crime within the suburb, down an indicated 65% following the introduction of the cameras.

Sea Point is one of Cape Town’s most affluent and highly developed suburbs, the only one in fact to have high-rise development of any significance. The area’s ocean side location and general level of affluence make it very popular with city residents who enjoy the beach front promenade, a paved walkway along the beach-front used by residents and tourists for walking, jogging and socialising. It is also attracting a large amount of investment in second homes and apartments.

However, it is not that long ago that the area was regarded as less desirable, even dangerous. On top of South Africa’s high crime rates, many of the apartment blocks had been neglected by the absentee landlords, leaving them in poor physical condition. The result was a very high crime rate, much of which was attributed to vehicle-borne criminals.

Monitoring universal access

Located just a few kilometers west of the city’s Central Business District, the roads that access Sea Point are some of the busiest in the entire peninsular. Many arterial roads lead in and out of the area, providing drivers with a wide variety of route options and appealing to residents and legitimate visitors. However, the sheer number of route options means that the criminal fraternity has also been able to enjoy only partially restricted access to this valuable real estate. 

Recognising the possibility to improve the safety and security of the area, the Sea Point City Improvement District, a joint Municipal/Police entity, decided to establish a licence plate recognition (LPR) system to monitor Sea Point’s access roads and highways. Their aim was to identify and track every individual vehicle entering or leaving the area and co-ordinate law enforcement activity to combat crime. To design and implement the system they turned to local company, LPR Solutions.

Our challenge – the first LPR installation in Cape Town

“This project is the first large-scale LPR solution to be installed in Greater Cape Town,” says LPR Solutions’ Chris Hobbis.

“With an average of over 300,000 vehicle movements per hour being expected for the network of just over 40 cameras, the sheer intensity of traffic movement represented a considerable technical hurdle for the system designers to overcome. On top of this, the LPR system had to be robust enough to cope with the speed of the passing traffic on these major link roads in all weathers and be operational day-and-night.”

“Therefore, our emphasis for the camera was on build quality, reliability, weather protection, image quality and true day/night capability,” states Chris.

The installation of Cape Town’s first large-scale Licence Plate Recognition solution has had an immediate impact
Each camera’s video stream is recorded on server through Hikvision’s iVMS VMS and fed from there to LPR’s itrack LPRS

The LPR team also installed the network wireless and cabling links to feed the camera streams to a dedicated central control room located within Sea Point, which is manned around-the-clock by a staff of six.

The solution

The focus of the design was to record every vehicle movement into and out of the Sea Point area from the minimum number of cameras. After analysing the road infrastructure, the engineers at LPR Solutions identified 42 points for the cameras, with each camera dedicated to monitoring one lane of traffic. Once these points were calculated, the demands to be placed on the cameras were investigated.

Although the primary imaging requirement was for a rugged and reliable, true day/night camera capable of withstanding the environmental conditions in this busy seafront neighbourhood, the team’s stringent assessment protocol also included:

  • Camera and video monitoring software features
  • Product availability
  • Level of technical support
  • Price
  • Total cost of ownership
  • Warranty

Their eventual choice was the Hikvision DS-2CD4012F-A Smart IPC day/night box camera, with every camera protected from the environmental stresses by IP66 housing. Each camera’s video stream is recorded on a dedicated server through Hikvision’s iVMS video monitoring software suite and fed from there to LPR’s itrack licence plate recognition software.

A truly SMART solution

Reflecting on their choice of the DS-2CD4012F-A camera, Chris says, “The main challenges we faced on this project were the changes in lighting conditions as we passed from day to the dark of night, the speed of the passing traffic and ensuring the utmost in reliability.”

“We opted for one of the new breed of SMART cameras from Hikvision, which offers unparalleled image quality under all lighting conditions and fast, remote focusing capability whilst more than meeting our needs for efficient bandwidth and storage utilisation. Visitors to South Africa will know that daytime conditions can be very bright but the DS-2CD4012F-A copes with everything. Moreover, the bright lens produces brilliant 1280 x 1024 HD720p video at up to 60 fps, critical for an application where image detail is critically important. Combined with the Smart Focus capability, which allows the SMART cameras to automatically adjust the image sensor position to guarantee optimal focus without user intervention, accurate rendering of licence plates no matter what the vehicle speed has not been an issue.”

"The contribution of the Hikvision cameras to this increased quality of life cannot be underestimated and should not be ignored"

“As well as Smart Focus, the Hikvision DS-2CD4012F-A also features a comprehensive suite of SMART features, including Smart Codec, Smart VQD (video quality detection), Smart Face Detection and Smart Audio Detection. The Smart Codec is particularly significant in a network situation as the advanced encoding algorithm streams images at a very low bitrate without compromising quality. Compared to traditional cameras, the Hikvision Smart cameras enhance image quality by up to 30% while minimising the system’s load and storage requirements. And, if necessary, up to 64 GB of on-board storage can be utilised,” added Chris.

The result is crystal-clear images under the most challenging of environmental conditions, making it the ideal camera for all forms of surveillance, from large scale projects to small businesses.

A first for Cape Town and a drop in crime

“The installation of Cape Town’s first large-scale Licence Plate Recognition solution has had an immediate impact”, says Chris. “Crime in the area has dropped dramatically! Early indications are that there has been a 65% decrease in recorded crime within the Sea Point suburb.”

“Another immediate result of the success of the Sea Point installation is the award of a large, 75-camera contract from City of Cape Town Metro, which involved a change from the originally specified camera manufacturer to Hikvision Smart cameras.”

“The roads in Sea Point are now being used by those with a legitimate interest in travelling to and from the area, and this is likely to have a significant impact on those that live, work and play within its confines. The contribution of the Hikvision cameras to this increased quality of life cannot be underestimated and should not be ignored.”

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