War room brings cross-bor­der car thieves to book

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - NEWS - BIANCA CAPAZORIO

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.

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