War room brings cross-border car thieves to book
WITH banks of flat-screen televisions, closed-circuit camera capability and other hi-tech software, the new Wester n Cape police control centre is like something out of the television show 24.
The new control centre and war room in Longmarket Street was opened yesterday to serve all the province’s law enforcement agencies.
Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa and Police Commissioner Bheki Cele were shown around the three brand-new control rooms.
Banks of screens line one wall of two of the rooms, and Western Cape police commissioner Mzwandile Petros said these would eventually stretch from wall to wall.
Software will allow officers to call up maps, focusing on the various police stations and even to track where police vehicles are at any time, allowing police to monitor their activities, as well as respond to crimes immediately.
In the CCTV room, cameras across the city are constantly monitored on massive screens. Cameras on streets, in shopping malls and even in schools can be used through live feeds, allowing police to keep an eye on events in a certain area, or to track criminals.
Finally, the police’s war room allows officers working there to pull together as much information as possible on a suspect, especially in the 48-hour period after they have been arrested and during which they must be charged.
Petros told of a case in which two Malawian men arrived in Cape Town from Pretoria on November 11, driving a white Toyota Camry. They were later arrested in connection with the theft of a Toyota Fortuna that had been tracked using a tracker system.
“If this had been investigated by the local police station, it would have been an ordinary case of housebreaking, where a car was stolen.”
But when officers in the war room started putting together a case on the two men, they found SMS messages on their cellphones placing orders for stolen vehicles. Checks with border authorities showed the men crossed the borders regularly, and further investigation proved their Camry had been hijacked in KwaZulu Natal. Between them they had moved more than 20 stolen vehicles into Zimbabwe since last year.
Petros said as a result of the war room, the police had a firm case against the men, and they had been denied bail.
The room was described as “world class”. Cele said the one in Paris, which he had recently visited, “was no different from what I saw here today”.
The police are likely to set up similar facilities in other cities across the country.