With the installation of Closed Circuit Television (CCTV) cameras in urban areas, "the game is finished" for city criminals, President Yoweri Museveni has said.
While launching the national safe city CCTV project in which at least 359 CCTV cameras have been installed in Kampala over the last three months, Museveni said now criminals can be monitored from near and far, during the day and night, before and after crime.
"I could see by day and by night and not only seeing but actually recording so even if you come back afterwards you can roll back and see. But this one will also help me because even me in State House, I can now plug in and see who didn't respond. Because it not only help me respond but it also helps me to monitor these sleeping policemen because I will not only be seeing the criminals but also these sleeping policemen and women. The game is finished, it's finished for the criminals." Museveni said.
The project is part of a government strategy to fight urban crime and beefing up security in Kampala Metropolitan area. The cameras so far installed, cover the areas of Rubaga and some parts of Kawempe Division on the outskirts of Kampala. They include fixed cameras, rotational pan tilt zoom (PTZ) cameras, facial recognition and numberplate recognition cameras.
The PTZ cameras will be placed at strategic highpoints and roundabouts to capture all directions while the fixed zoom cameras will be placed along major highways and main roads. The vehicle recognition cameras are mainly on highways while the facial recognition cameras will be stationed at unique places like ministries, churches and selected places in downtown Kampala.
The cameras are powered by a feed that transmits images and videos through cables to a specific server created by the National Information Technology Authority (NITA-U) Uganda. NITA is providing high speed connectivity for the CCTV network over the national data transmission backbone infrastructure.
Acting police director for ICT Felix Baryamwisaki is optimistic that the cameras will aid investigation and enhance surveillance in areas around the capital city where more crime cases have been recorded over the years. He says that real time footage will be accessible to different police units.
"Once you appear anywhere where the cameras are, we shall be able to correlate with the database when it gives an alarm then we're able to know that this person is at this place. And that is for specific areas like automatic numberplate recognition cameras are on highways, at exits of divisions... for example if you're from Jinja road division going to Mukono, there is a a numberplate recognition. Now the facial recognition we're putting them at places which are unique like parliament, where we're getting passports - internal ministry, main police stations, those are the areas."
The government is planning to install 3,233 cameras in the districts of Kampala, Wakiso and Mukono. It is also in the process of setting up temporally command centres at Nateete police building, central police station (CPS) building and Naguru police headquarters. Up to Shs 400 billion is needed to construct a national CCTV command centre at Naguru.
The temporary command centre which is housed in a room on the fourth floor of the Nateete police building covers a space of 12 meters by 6 meters with 21 desktop computers and a wide wall screen viewing different cameras.
At the time of the launch at Natete police, there were 21 police officers, 3 Chinese national experts and four other civilian IT experts in the command centre - all walking barefooted on the carpeted floor with their shoes left out of the room whose access required a fingerprint identification.
Minister of Security Gen Elly Tumwine says that even the lack of street lighting in various places will not affect the functioning of cameras which have an infrared feature. The second phase of the project which is supposed to begin in June 2019 will be for trenching, networking and installing cameras on highways, municipalities and small towns across the country.
Police are also in the process of talking with owners of commercial places like arcades, shopping malls and hotels to allow the directorate of ICT tap into their CCTV cameras and be able to link them to the national CCTV project, according to Baryamwisaki.
We're not getting into people's homes, however for commercial business we're in cooperation with them and only look at what is being done there." said Baryamwisaki.
The government has been pushing for the implementation of national CCTV project since March 2017 when Assistant Inspector General of Police (AIGP) Andrew Felix Kaweesi was gunned down in Kulambiro, a suburb of Kampala together with his driver Geoffrey Wambewo and his bodyguard Kenneth Erau.
On that day, Museveni issued an order for police to set up CCTV cameras across the country. The project which is said to cost Shs 458 billion began to see light in June 2018 when Huawei Technologies Ltd was contracted. The ministry of Finance has so far released Shs 60 billion for the implementation of the first phase of the project.