CRIME Q AND A WITH Excellerate Security DIRECTORS:
Q1: Criminals are increasingly becoming more sophisticated, and brazen, in carrying out their activities. How important is technology in fighting crime? And what new methods has Excellerate Security incorporated to aid their work?
Response from Derek Lategan, Excellerate Security director: Guarding
Technology is vital to the fight against crime and there are some amazing technologies that have been developed in the industry, both locally and globally. Obviously, however, it is equally important to ensure that this technology is operated by skilled individuals, and so just as it is important to rely on technology, so too is it integral that security professionals are continually upskilled.
Excellerate Security has always embraced the various technologies available in the market and continually tries to integrate what we do with what can be done. This pioneering spirit is the reason we were the first security company to develop and install the Watchmen community cameras which other security companies have attempted to replicate.
We added the technological capabilities of Remote Video Verification (RVV), which effectively allows instantaneous verification of any security breach, to our capabilities in 2012. High-end camera technology is used in conjunction with the Excellerate Security Control Room to provide a never-sleep, 24/7 facility, which is geared to activate on breach and provide instant visual information. Trained operators immediately analyse the situation and can zoom in on detail to identify perpetrators, and then plan the action to be taken by the armed response unit. In this way Excellerate Security can identify if an alarm activation is false, set off deliberately as a decoy while an offence takes place elsewhere, or establish the best approach to a crime scene by blocking escape routes.
There is also an audio feed which allows our control room operators to communicate with suspects directly via a speaker. Although communication is difficult at some sites and so recorded messages are relayed to potential copper theft suspects, control room operators at others are able to immediately instruct suspects to leave the site and inform them that armed response has been dispatched.
Pan, Tilt, and Zoom cameras which can move to continue tracking suspects on site, are also used.
RVV is also used in communities that require the use of day and night guards, to provide a virtual patrol service and reduce manpower. Cameras connected to high and inaccessible security poles are located at identified residential ‘hot spots’ such as cable and motor vehicle theft areas, residential theft syndicate operating areas, and entrances and exits to communities or other strategically important areas. While the cameras are continuously recording, the control room will also physically log into each camera on system-defined intervals.
Another of our technologies is the “Virtual Inspector” which we developed to assist with the inspection of security guards on remote sites. Historically an inspector would need to drive hundreds of kilometres to check on guards at various remote sites every few days. With “virtual inspectors” however, our control room can view live camera footage of our security guards as they report for duty. They also need to check into the system at regular, given times. For example, a security guard will know that every hour he needs to “check in” and to do so he will press a button which will activate the camera and notify the control room. Our system alerts if he does not check in on time so we know that there is a problem. This system not only assists us with monitoring our people but also serves as protection for the officers as, if they do not check in, we will send someone to see why not. So in the past if a guard was, for example, accosted and tied-up, we would only find out about it the next morning. Now, in a matter of a few minutes we will realise there is a problem and send assistance.
We also have a computerised incident management system in which every incident is recorded. The system manages and escalates incidents to ensure they are followed up timeously, and full feedback is provided. Comprehensive reporting on statistics based on incident type, location and site and more is used to understand and manage risk in more detail.
Other current technologies include biometric access control systems.
Q2: According to recent research, there are three times more security officials on the ground than police officers - would Excellerate Security be of the opinion that private security plays an important role in preventing crimes by being more visible.
Response from Anthony Feuilherade, Excellerate Security director: Intrusion
Yes, private security definitely does play an important role in preventing crime by acting as a deterrent. If a criminal is looking to break into a property and has the option of two neighbouring properties – one with armed response and the other without – he will more than likely target the one without.
For criminals, it is always an issue of weighing up risk versus reward.
Having said that, however, armed response is not the solution to crime. It definitely acts as a deterrent, mitigates people’s losses as a result of theft, and ensures that armed reaction is only a few minutes away in the event that a victim needs assistance, but it does not stop crime. It does not get to the root of the problem, which is ultimately the criminal element.
This is why we place a huge emphasis on private investigations, and pride ourselves on the depth of experience and knowledge within our private investigations unit. Investigations is what we believe can solve crime as it does not merely react to it but, through informer bases and intelligence gathering, leads to the identification of those responsible for committing crime, and can then result in them being taken off the streets.
Q3: What more needs to be done to keep Durban safe?
Response from Nico Potgieter, Head of Investigations
There is a lot that needs to be done, and this involves many different role players. Firstly, we need to ensure that offenders, particularly youth offenders, are rehabilitated, and effective deterrents put in place, for if this does not occur, they will most-likely develop into repeat offenders, and this will only continue the cycle of crime and violence.
This is a perfect example why Excellerate Security has embarked on a #RespectSA campaign: To ignite and grow a culture of respect and understanding in our society, which will not only impact us all as citizens, but help eradicate crime. For more information please visit www.respectSA.co.za
Then, generally, people need to become more vigilant and take better precautions. We do understand that people are fed up with crime and rightly feel that they should be able to live freely in their homes, leaving windows and doors open, but the reality is that they are only making themselves and their properties easy targets, particularly for opportunistic criminals. We are still continually seeing cases of suspects entering homes through open or unlocked doors and windows. People are also not in the habit of arming their alarm systems. They invest in them but then do not arm them at night or when they leave their homes. In the same way, business owners need to put better security measures in place to make entry and exit into and out of their properties more difficult.
People need to also start reporting crime to the SAPS and their security companies, even if it is only attempted crime or perceived to be small incidents. Investigators are able to link crimes together, and suspects to crimes, if such reports are made.
Residents also need to get involved in their own community safety. Joining neighbourhood watches and embarking on patrols is not only a proactive way to keep their communities safer, but it also encourages neighbours to get to know each other. It is far too common that people build high walls around their homes and keep to themselves in attempts to keep safe, and ultimately, while it can go a long way in keeping intruders out, they thereby also isolate themselves from everyone around them. If they ever need help, their neighbours won’t know. People must get to know their neighbours, get to know who belongs on their properties and who does not. They need to look out for each other, exchange phone numbers. We cannot fight crime in silos, we need to all work together.
This includes communities working with police and private security companies. There is a role for everyone in this crime fight. We need our police force, we need their capabilities. We also need the resources, skills, and experience of our private security professionals. Police and private security need to work together, they need to share information. Private security companies need to work with one another, and communities need to work with both police and private security. Only when we all start sharing information, looking out for each other, and fighting this war together, can we realistically start to win it.