Tag: police

Source: IOL

Giant South African retail chain Shoprite Group have tightened the screws on criminals targeting its stores.

The supermarket chain said that its efforts to prevent crime and the protect its customers and employees by employing a team of security experts comprising of ex-police officers and using technology has resulted in a 16% year-on-year decline in violent and serious crime, including armed robberies and burglaries, from July 2020 to May 2021.

The in-house team – operating from a centralised command centre – is involved in the entire process from identifying suspects to their arrest, being in court to oppose bail, working with police to ensure they have a complete and accurate docket, working with the National Prosecuting Authority and providing evidence in court, to do everything it can to ensure criminals are prosecuted.

Shoprite said crime and high risk situations are picked up through store and fleet monitoring, live information feeds and the group’s intelligence network, and security devices are immediately triggered.

When robberies do take place, the team is proving highly effective in securing arrests and prosecution, and the Group is becoming known for its capability to identify, trace and arrest suspects.

Head of Group Security & Loss Prevention, Oswald Meiring, believes Shoprite is a retail industry leader with its initiatives which are centred around a team of in-house investigators, which include former police members and detectives, with a unique mix of skills and extensive experience in commercial crime, fraud, serious and violent crime.

The team’s network includes informants, third parties working exclusively for it and an expert criminal lawyer.

The command centre team makes extensive use of technology and software systems including electronic dockets, suspect photo albums and evidence files.

A team of data and crime analysts do predictive analysis, identify suspects, and link suspects to each other and to the crime scene.

This technology, including video footage and a chain of evidence, has been critical in court proceedings.

The net result is that the investigation team made 752 court appearances, including postponements, bail, testifying and sentencing, in the 11 months from July 2020 to May 2021.

It secured 64% more guilty findings and/or convictions than the previous 12 months, amounting to 303 years and six months of prison sentences and 46 years and six months of suspended sentences.

The team has been instrumental in 200 arrests in the first 11 months of this financial year. The majority (54%) of crimes currently in court are for armed robbery, 26% are for theft and the rest include crimes such as arson, assault, looting, burglary and fraud.

As some cases were postponed in the last year due to lockdown restrictions, the team is currently in court every day.

Meiring says the Group focuses on fighting crime because it is the right thing to do as a concerned and responsible corporate citizen. “We also believe that securing arrests and sentences for crimes acts as a deterrent and ultimately reduces crime. We believe this is an important element of our contribution to make South Africa a safer environment for everyone.”

The Shoprite Group encountered specific lockdown-related challenges and benefits. Increased unemployment led to more opportunistic crimes, and mask-wearing made it more difficult to identify suspects. However, suspects couldn’t move around freely, resulting in increased arrests, while curfew hours also assisted in detecting criminal activity quicker and easier.

The Group appeals to members of the public to report any suspicious or criminal behaviour immediately and anonymously by calling its toll-free number 0800 11 88 79 or by sending an email to service@asesa.co.za.


By Se-Anne Rall for IOL

Traffic officers will now be issued with body cameras to support them in gathering evidence and improving conviction rates for violations of traffic laws.

This is according to Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula, who announced that the Road Traffic Management Corporation will also be investing in drones which will help in identifying hazards on the road as well as help officers identify reckless drivers and those driving at high speeds.

According to a statement from the Department of Transport, the cameras will be a useful tool in dealing with high levels of bribery by providing a factual account of events.

The official launch was held today in the North West ahead of the Easter weekend when high traffic volumes are expected.

The department said the RTMC has taken a giant leap towards reinventing law enforcement by introducing a lasting solution to many law enforcement problems in the form of a body-worn camera to be used by officers.

“This use of e-enforcement will not only bring about much-needed relief to the fraternity but will also enhance road safety for all road users, especially motorists,” the statement read.

RTMC chief executive advocate Makhosini Msibi said the cameras would help to alleviate allegations of corruption.

“This should be welcomed by both road users and law enforcement. For evidence purposes, we now have footage and not hearsay evidence,” he said.


By Natasha Odendaal for Creamer Media’s Engineering News 

Telecommunications giant Vodacom has started engaging communities to intensify security around its base stations to guard against vandalism and battery theft.

Community members will be recruited, trained and accredited – working with police – serving as “monitoring personnel” under a new model to secure its sites.

“Incidents of base station vandalism have significantly gotten worse over the last few years,” said Vodacom Group CEO Shameel Joosub, noting that the crime is being perpetuated by organised syndicates that always find new ways to commit this type of crime.

“Our security teams on the ground have observed that quite often syndicates target base stations in far-flung and secluded areas because they know it will take police a long time to react. Hence, our sites in remote areas are repeatedly hit,” said Vodacom Group chief risk officer Johan Van Graan.

Theft and vandalism, and its subsequent damage, is costing network providers hundreds of millions of rands worth of damage every year.

Vodacom reported a 35% increase year-on-year in the number of battery thefts at its base stations, with an average of 600 incidents a month of sites impacted by theft or damage.

“We are losing between R120-million and R130-million to vandalism and theft each year. Nonetheless, we are not sitting on our laurels and are fighting back by coming up with innovative measures to stem the tide of battery theft,” Joosub assured.

Vodacom is testing a new model to secure its sites by forging partnerships with members of the community.

“As part of this new model, we recruit local people to serve as monitoring personnel to be our eyes and ears on the ground and provide us critical information police can use to effect arrests,” Van Graan said.

Locals will be trained and accredited, and linked with the local policing community forum and local South African Police Services to provide support when arrests must happen.

“In all the provinces where this model is currently being tested, it has yielded positive results,” he said, citing a substantial reduction in break-ins at at-risk sites owing to the enlistment of local people to secure its sites.

“This demonstrates that the number-one line of defence against site vandalism is the local community and vigilant community members who report incidents of battery theft or site vandalism to police,” he added.

Each theft incident can result in the network in that area being down for days, and can severely impact businesses, as well as anyone relying on the Internet to study and remain in contact with friends and family.

Vodacom plans to spend R1-billion in the current financial year to ensure its network is able to cope with widespread electricity blackouts, which will include intensified security around the telco’s base station sites and the installation of additional batteries and generators to ensure connectivity during load-shedding.

The City of Cape Town has published its amended traffic by-laws for public comment.

If passed, changes will include:

  • Strict new rules on using smartphones while driving will be applied
  • Mobile phones may be impounded (rather than be destroyed or auctioned off) if a motorist is caught using a handset while driving
  • Confiscated phones may be donated to neighbourhood watches, NGOs, or non-profit organisations
  • Motorists will have a number of opportunities to get their phones back first

Police take IT supplier to court

By Angelique Serrao for News24

The battle between the police and a supplier that switched off access to critical IT systems last week has hit the courts.

Last week, Forensic Data Analysts (FDA), a police supplier which has been accused of corruption, threatened to suspend the police’s Property Control and Exhibit Management (PCEM) and Firearm Permit System (FPS), unless the police and the State Information Technology Agency (SITA) pay them.

The company, run by businessman Keith Keating, claimed SITA had not paid them for five months for their services.

The two systems – as well as a system called the VA-Amis proprietary solution – supplied by Keating’s other company Investigative Software Solutions (ISS) – were all switched off, leaving the police’s capacity to handle forensic evidence, firearm controls and their ability to do in-depth investigations stranded.

Police responded publicly to FDA by saying that it was coming up with contingency solutions.

Behind the scenes, in a letter seen by News24, attorneys for the SAPS and SITA wrote to FDA and ISS saying that, in barring the police from accessing the three systems, the companies were acting unlawfully.

They went into detail about each of the three systems and their functions, and stated why they believed FDA could not block them from accessing them.

FPS, they said, was initiated in 2006 to perform critical functions of marking, identifying, issuing and tracking its firearms. It also enables the storage of information regarding the ballistic characteristics of the firearms.

The letter said SAPS was granted a permanent, non-expiring licence to use the FPS and to make sufficient copies for backup purposes. SAPS paid a once-off licence fee of R11.6-million and this meant that, by stopping the police from using the system, the FDA was acting unlawfully, the letter stated.

The PCEM system is used to log evidence and track it throughout the process, ensuring the chain of evidence is not broken.

Lawyers representing SAPS said in the letter that SAPS access to the PCEM system was governed by a written agreement concluded between the police and Unysis Africa in 2010.

“In exchange for the PCEM licence, SAPS was required to pay a once-off licence fee of R35 910 000,” the letter said.

“Notwithstanding, the fact that SAPS paid the full licence fee to Unysis under the PCEM Licence Agreement, FDA has with effect from 5 April 2018, unlawfully prevented SAPS and/or any of its members from accessing the PCEM system.”

The VA-Amis contract, SAPS said, was governed by a written agreement between SITA and ISS concluded in June 2017.

In exchange for the licence and performance of the VA-Amis services, SITA was required to remunerate ISS in the form of service fees which could not exceed R80 954 179, the letter said. This full amount was paid to ISS the SAPS lawyers said.

Police and SITA then threatened to go to court on an urgent basis if the systems were not turned on.

News24 understands that the police were set to approach the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria earlier this week on an urgent basis, but the application was halted after the systems were restored.

The case is set to be heard on Thursday instead.

The State wants the companies to restore the police’s possession of, access to and use of the intellectual property for the three systems.

Keating told News24 that FDA was served with an urgent application on Monday afternoon to restore all the services “due to the fact that SITA and SAPS now suddenly admit that the services are mission critical and of national importance”.

Keating said they agreed to switch on VA-Amis, but “due to SITA legal now playing games around the terms of switching back on, this has still not occurred”.

SITA and SAPS re-established the services for FPS and PCEM illegally, Keating said.

He said that FDA would approach the court on an urgent basis.

Since February, the cell phone allowances of officers in specialised units such as crime intelligence, and those driving patrol vehicles, have been slashed.

With the police’s 10111 operators – most of whom are poorly trained civilians – notoriously incapable of handling calls properly, and often taking addresses incorrectly, a cell phone could be the difference between your life and your death.

Research shows that in house robberies, which police statistics indicate have increased, people have only three minutes in which to call the police before being overpowered.

But the average police response time, according to officers in the thick of it, can be 20 minutes or more.

If in your panic you drop a call to 10111, or the operator fails to get all the essential information from you, or call you back, there’s little if anything patrol officers can do to find you.

Often, say Pretoria policemen, if they cannot find a crime scene – especially if it is “minor” crime, such as a housebreaking – they declare it “negative”.

The problem is that, says Unisa criminologist Rudolph Zinn, burglaries often turn into house robberies if the homeowners arrive when the burglars are still inside.

A Pretoria policeman said two weeks ago it took his colleagues an hour to find the victim of a house robbery, who had left his home to look for them, because a 10111 operator had failed to take his address correctly.

In another house robbery case, officers could not find the crime scene.

Although they had the correct street name, the robbery was in Rosebank, Johannesburg, not Pretoria.

“People are dying because of this [communication] bugger-up,” said a Centurion policeman.

Police spokesman Brigadier Hangwani Mulaudzi failed to respond to e-mailed questions about why cell phone allowances had been slashed and what is being done to improve the 10111 emergency service.

The Times understands that uncapped cell phone budgets of members of specialised units, whose informants tip them off about planned crimes, were cut to R350 a month.

The cell phone allowances of sector policing patrol officers are about R80 a month.

Research by Unisa and the Council for Industrial and Scientific Research paints a picture of millions of frustrated South Africans being driven to buying cell phones for their local police, plus airtime and two-way radios, to increase the chance that they can be reached in emergencies.

The research looked at communities in Gauteng, Limpopo and Mpumalanga.

“If you drop the call to your local police van, officers must have enough airtime to phone or SMS you back,” said Unisa criminologist Rudolph Zinn.

“If you phone, 10111 operators must be trained to ask you the right questions to get you the right help.”

He said problems with 10111 call centres included not being able to get through, and operators being unable to understand the nature of the emergency and get the police to respond quickly.

Zinn said research, which is now looking at Pretoria and West Rand communities, focused on crime patterns and communities’ frustrations about police communication systems.

“It shows that, in many cases, police in patrol vehicles either don’t answer their cell phones or don’t return calls.

“Many communities have been forced to buy their local police additional hand-held radios, cell phones and airtime.”

A crime intelligence officer said that as a result of the allowance reduction, many of his colleagues had resorted to using their own cell phones.

“It’s not like our informants can contact us on our police radios.”

A Pretoria police officer said that for eight years as a policing sector manager he had battled to get a cell phone.

“Each police station patrol vehicle has a cell phone, but only R80 of airtime on it.

“The airtime, if you’re lucky, lasts a week. If we receive a call and it’s dropped, we radio our station and get them to phone the complainant, which wastes time.”

A former 10111 operator said that in the past provinces were divided into policing sectors with each having its own call centre manned by police from that sector.

“For years now, 10111 centres have been centralised, with operators who have knowledge only of certain areas dispatching police to areas about which they have no knowledge.

“Combine this with incomplete information from crime victims and you have a disaster like last week, when we arrived at a Wierdabrug robbery only to find the real crime scene was in Rosebank,” a policeman says.

By Graeme Hosken for www.timeslive.co.za

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