Cutting-edge surveillance and monitoring technology is being used to counter the effects of South Africa's deadliest crime scourges, which include cash-in-transit heists and ATM bombings.
So says Jack Edery, CEO of Elvey Security Technologies, a provider of security and surveillance solutions to the country's banking, financial and cash movement sectors.
"While the banking industry has to contend with numerous security risks such as bank robberies, white collar crime and unauthorised entry, the spotlight also needs to be focused on ATM (automated teller machine) bombings and cash-in-transit heists to reduce both numbers of incidents and the potential for death and injury," he says.
According to the DA's 'Eye on Crime' website, the latest SAPS crime statistics for the period April 2006 to March 2007 show that aggravated robbery went up 4,6%, bank robberies shot up by 118% and cash-in-transit heists rose by 21,9% compared with last year's figures. Further to this, the South African Banking Risk Information Centre (Sabric) says there have been 190 ATM blasts throughout the country in the same period. Of these, 56 attacks took place during 2006 alone - double the combined figures of the previous two years. This, says Edery, is cause for serious concern, considering that Sabric estimates that there are about 15 000 ATMs scattered throughout South Africa.
Supporting First National Bank's (FNB) recently-launched R100-million ATM crime fighting initiative, Edery says the best way of bringing this and other related crime under control is through the use of high-tech systems that will either deter or help apprehend criminals in the act as well as aid with their prosecution.
Proactive not reactive
Michael Brett, Elvey's new business development manager, in conjunction with the company's clients, works extensively with major banking groups and cash-in-transit service providers to address their security needs. He says these sectors are increasingly embracing proactive, holistic security solutions that include surveillance, off-site monitoring and intelligent alarming capabilities. "The intention is to make access and infiltration to any institutions that carry money as difficult as possible for the criminally-intentioned. To this end, we not only provide a wide range of innovative products but we are also constantly looking at new ways of improving the security of staff members and the public in a proactive rather than reactive manner."
Digital camera surveillance and recording systems designed for use in static and mobile applications feature high on the list of Elvey's cutting-edge crime solutions, Brett continues. "Other major benefits of these systems are that they come with modern video compression formatting which delivers high quality video streaming on playback, and that they support GPRS, GPS, GSM and dial-up connections with modems and the use of TCP/IP for continuous monitoring."
Keen attention has been given to the development of these products to ensure that alarm signals are transmitted to the central monitoring stations within the predetermined time. "Since time is of the essence in an emergency, the latest systems are able to send signal via up to five different methods of communication to ensure that it reaches the central monitoring station within seconds," he explains.
According to Zane Greeff, Elvey's technical director, the protection and security solutions of a site are determined by its vulnerability and the level of risk attached to it. Some are ideally suited to self-arming systems where, when people forget to arm the system on leaving the premises, non-movement will trigger the system to self-arm. Others are best secured with high quality video verification that can be relayed to the control centre within seconds. "Technology is so advanced now that alarms can be integrated with lighting systems. The lights therefore are able to switch on in an alarm situation to ensure that the closed circuit television (CCTV) can obtain the best possible picture clarity. CCTV picture quality is now so good that suspects can be identified by face or by the clothes they are wearing, which in turn helps the police and armed response teams when giving chase, greatly improving their chances of successful apprehension."
Greeff says further that not only is cutting edge technology itself going to make it ever more difficult for criminals to succeed but also the growing presence of off-site video and monitoring facilities.
ATM bombings have become a feared and vicious crime in a very short space of time, yet the majority of these attacks are, and will continue to be, unsuccessful, says Brett. "For starters, the explosion attracts massive and instant attention to the scene which means perpetrators have very little time to get at the money. Secondly, with the advances in safe technology in recent years, the chances are that the safe will either be relatively undamaged by the explosion, rendering the cash inside inaccessible or alternatively, the money will be destroyed by the explosion, again making it unusable."
The major threat presented by this form of crime is therefore not so much the theft of cash, the amounts of which have been negligible to date, but rather the threat to life and limb that explosives present to people. There is also a substantial cost to the banking sector in terms of replacing damaged ATM equipment and the major disruption to banking and public business activities.
To counter the problem, banks are installing innovative systems with cameras that are able to monitor - with matchless clarity - the range of ATM crimes from robberies and card skimming to bombing attacks. Realtime footage of incidents is then sent immediately to control centres where trained operators react instantly to problems by alerting the police and armed response companies.
A particularly vicious form of crime and one that has increased alarmingly in recent years, cash-in-transit heists have claimed the lives of many security officers in their course of duty and are costing the country millions and millions of rands. Determined to fight back, service providers in this sector are stepping up vehicle and officer security by using modern systems with GPS and satellite tracking components. "These are so advanced that on- and off-site video surveillance of vehicles is now a sharp reality," says Francois Smuts, Elvey's CCTV specialist.
He says that evolutionary strides in technology are enabling those at risk to become proactive rather than reactive, especially since they have access to state-of-the-art systems which are affordable, user-friendly and can download recorded video data with ease.
The use of mobile digital video recording (DVR) and surveillance systems in cash-in-transit vehicles is growing rapidly as people see the many benefits of this technology.
"People want enhanced levels of personal safety, cash security and criminal deterrence without having to undergo special training. They also want reliable and dependable performance from systems that have the innate intelligence to overcome power failures and other problems during recording."
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