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City Hall’s Sh430m CCTV system ‘unreliable’

The closed-circuit television (CCTV) system installed on streets of Nairobi by a Chinese firm cannot capture reliable images to pin down criminals and traffic offenders, a new report shows.

The report prepared by the Nairobi County Assembly’s Transport Committee says the quality of the images captured by the cameras installed two years ago at a cost of Sh430 million “is low and unreliable in most cases”.

“The cameras should be upgraded so that they can capture images of high quality and cover a large radius,” said the transport committee report.

Of the 40 cameras that were installed in the central business district, seven have already stopped working, the report shows.

In 2012, Chinese company Nanjing Les Information Technologies won the tender to install 51 cameras and new traffic lights at a cost of Sh430 million.It is not clear why 11 cameras were never installed.

The project was under the Nairobi Metropolitan ministry, but was later transferred to the county government.

The CCTV cameras were supposed to be able to capture vital information like number plates that could be used in prosecution of traffic offenders.

It was expected that officers stationed at the control-room would be able to monitor traffic situations and use the traffic lights to control vehicles accordingly.

Alternatively, they would be in communication with their counterparts on the ground to relay information about roads most affected by traffic jams.

Although the latter system was briefly adopted along Tom Mboya Street, it was abandoned after traffic marshals were withdrawn from the streets.

INEFFECTIVE AT NIGHT

“In addition, traffic police on the roads do not consider the advice of the officers at the control room,” the report adds.

“The officers (at the control room) reported that there was no direct coordination between them and traffic marshals or police on various roads in the city.”

The control room at City Hall Annexe which is manned by four officers on two shifts has no input in traffic control with the committee saying that it could not ascertain any tangible output of their work apart from monitoring the cameras.

The screens at the server room are tiny and unable to project all cameras at a go and officers have to keep checking each camera making it difficult to notice an incident instantly.

The cameras are also ineffective at night due to poor street lighting and are affected by power outages.

Initially, the project was designed as security and traffic control system with two control rooms at police headquarters and City Hall respectively.

In December 2013, Governor Evans Kidero had directed building owners, malls and supermarkets to install CCTV cameras that would be integrated into the system. This was in the wake of the Westgate Mall terror attack.

But the system has since become relegated to a traffic control system after the government commissioned a bigger surveillance system for the security component following multiple terror attacks.

It’s unclear whether the City Hall system will be integrated with the bigger Sh15 billion secure communications and surveillance network being undertaken by Safaricom.