Stop at red lights, Big Brother is watching

Traffic on Kenyatta Avenue in Nairobi on Wednesday. Fifty-one locations in the city that include crime spots and all traffic lights-controlled junctions will be monitored through surveillance cameras. Photo/STEPHEN MUDIARI

You could soon watch a traffic offender live on national television if plans by the government to install surveillance cameras go through.

And the continued presence of traffic officers on the roads would also be unnecessary, thanks to the new technology which the government plans to acquire.

If you commit crime in Nairobi, your face will be captured by secret cameras installed in public places and you will be caught in no time.

On Tuesday), the Ministry of Nairobi Metropolitan Development advertised a tender for the supply and installation of the Intelligent Video Platform, which will monitor both traffic offenders and security situation around the city.

In a move meant to help secure the city and make it easier for the police to manage traffic, the ministry invited contractors to supply, install and test the Integrated Urban Surveillance System for the Nairobi metropolitan area.

They have to submit their proposals before July 5.

The area to be covered includes the central business district. All the major highways leading traffic into the city will also be covered.

Nairobi Metropolitan Development minister Jamleck Kamau earlier said that the Sh2.6 billion project would make Nairobi safer and movement around the city easier.

“The system will help monitor the expanded CBD that includes Community area, Upper Hill, Industrial Area, Westlands, Eastleigh and all the main corridors into the city, including Mombasa Road, Jogoo Road, Thika Road, Lang’ata Road, Waiyaki Way and Ngong Road. The government has prioritised 51 locations that include crime spots and all traffic lights-controlled junctions,” said Mr Kamau.

The ambitious programme will allow the police to view motorists driving beyond speed limits, those disobeying traffic lights and determine the owners of those vehicles without being on the road themselves.

Cameras installed on the roads would stream live video recordings of traffic movement from different areas of the city to a central server where trained police officers would be manning them.

According to an earlier brief released by the ministry, the system will help monitor interconnected traffic signals and capture what is happening at road junctions.

When fully implemented, the system will capture speeding vehicles through number plate recognition.

“Once this project goes through, we would have grown past the age of police officers stopping vehicles on our roads,” added the minister.

Television stations will be allowed to tap into the system and air the content to audiences throughout the country.

Woe unto you if you overtake other motorists using a pedestrian way. Your car number plate will be on police computer screens in real time.

An inter-ministerial committee comprising members from the Nairobi Metropolitan, Local Government, Finance and Internal Security ministries agreed to fix surveillance gadgets at 51 locations in Nairobi.

The locations would include all roundabouts in the CBD, tall buildings such as the Kenyatta International Conference Centre, major streets like Moi Avenue and Tom Mboya, and bus stations.

But private firms could also benefit by linking their cameras to the control room that will be operated by the police.

Once complete, videos of traffic flow will be streamed to the central control room to be situated on the second floor of the Nairobi Area Traffic Police Headquarters on Ngong Road.

A back-up room would be built at a secret location, Mr Kamau said.

To tap into the system and air the flow of traffic on major roads, TV stations will have to pay a fee.

The project is expected to be launched in September or October if a suitable contractor is found.

Although Mr Kamau admitted that the plan would be part of the countrywide security monitoring system to be funded by the Chinese Government to the tune of Sh8.3 billion, he said the ministry would fund phase one of it.

“As a ministry, we have our own budget and what we are doing is to kick-start the project. And once we begin, we will be able to expand on it with the funding from China or anywhere else.”

However, delays could result from the fact that the project is banking on the next budget allocation.

The ministry had in the past four years pledged to start this programme but it did not materialise.

If it succeeds this time, it would be a significant contribution to the lives of city dwellers.