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Caught in the act! Why CCTV is all the rage

When Faith Makena noticed her usually buoyant daughter had turned into an introvert, she got worried.

“Every time I got home, my daughter would be withdrawn. On some occasions she would hug me tight and not want to let go. I knew something was amiss,” she said during a recent interview.

With suspicions high, she set up CCTV cameras in her Donholm house in Nairobi. It did not take long for her suspicions to be confirmed; the househelp was mistreating the girl when Makena was out and about.

Barely two kilometres from Makena’s home, four thugs were shot dead by undercover police for attempted robbery on Manyanja Road in Umoja Estate last week. It all began in Nairobi’s Parklands area where they had attempted to rob a motorist.

Unfortunately for them, the vehicle was bullet proof and their shots bounced off the car as the motorist manoeuvred his way from the trap. Unknown to them, they had been captured on CCTV.

In Highrise estate, a househelp was taken to court by her employer. Her crime? Having sex in front of the child. She was captured on CCTV and the court sentenced her to nine months in prison.

WAYWARD HOUSEHELPS

Before that, the video footage of a Ugandan househelp who was captured on hidden cameras torturing a toddler went viral on social media and sent chilling feelings to anyone who leaves behind their child in the care of hired help.

On the strength of the evidence captured on the video, she was last week convicted by a Ugandan court and sentenced to four years in jail.

From catching wayward househelps to tracking criminals, to monitoring productivity in offices and factory floors, CCTV is increasingly becoming the go-to option for those who want a third eye to keep watch where they cannot be physically present.

Security companies in Kenya are now advertising CCTV cameras as part of their package whenever clients approach them and have also gone out to advertise their products, which range from a few thousand shillings to much more depending on the scope of coverage and quality of pictures desired.

Some of the CCTV packages on offer direct the footage to a specific monitor while others store it for review at a later time.

Yet others have the capacity to transmit what is gathered to a distant location over the Internet. Some parents install Internet-enabled CCTV to monitor what happens at home from their office computers or from their smartphones.

In Nairobi’s Central Business District, sex workers have shifted to operating in safer streets — those that have no CCTV installations, as a way of staying away from council askaris.

SEX WORKERS

City Hall roundabout, opposite the High Court, had for years been the preferred spot for commercial sex workers, mostly because it is surrounded by at least three entertainment spots preferred by wealthy men.

Sex workers have confided that they no longer walk freely on Koinange Street and Parliament Road, as they are sure their faces will be captured and they will be arrested and charged.

“Some of us now prefer to have regular clients who we ask to catch us in clubs outside town,” they said, adding that this was not good for business as the regulars tend to take them for granted or get too attached, which diminishes the returns.

The CCTV craze appears to be crawling into every aspect of life, especially in Nairobi, with ever more people asking for supplies of the gadgets to keep vigil on the circumferences of their homes or monitor the behaviour of their domestic workers.

It is in keeping with developed and developing nations where millions of cameras have been installed as a crime deterrent and to help solve crimes when they occur.

In the UK, for example, there are between 4 million and 5.9 million CCTV surveillance cameras, according to a new report from the British Security Industry Association. The cameras are supported by a sophisticated computer network.

SHOP OWNERS

The craze has not only caught on in homes but in shops, commercial buildings and even public service vehicles. Millions of shillings are being spent to buy CCTV cameras.

A trader in Nairobi, Mr Peterson Kiungu, said shop owners no longer feel safe if they do not have fully operational surveillance equipment.

“Beside helping track down thugs, the cameras scare away criminals. When they know they are being watched, they tend to be scared,” Mr Kiungu said.

Several businessmen we interviewed said they had been advised by the County Council to install CCTV cameras for their safety.

Recently, President Uhuru Kenyatta toured a command centre at the heart or the city where CCTV footage from cameras in the streets and on buildings will be analysed by police as a new way of fighting urban crime.

However, security consultant Taiti Macharia says: “The cameras can only be efficient if they are constantly monitored. Installation should be followed with the goodwill to follow whatever is recorded.”

Recently, President Uhuru Kenyatta witnessed the inauguration of the first phase of the Command and Control Centre, which extends surveillance technology to urban and vulnerable areas to improve security, a project undertaken by Safaricom.