Keeping security on track

October 2006 Asset Management, Government and Parastatal (Industry)

Kay Nayager is a man on a mission. As Spoornet’s security technology and research and development manager he is responsible for all technical security designs, projects, pilots etc, on a national basis.

Related personnel and the security nerve centres also fall under his control and he also drives the corporate security strategy for Spoornet in terms of direction, approaches, actions and targets. He shares some of the parastatal's security concerns with Hi-Tech Security Solutions.

Spoornet's security issues

"The areas of concern regarding a security nature are theft of our infrastructure, rolling stock components, other ancillary equipment, freight from our goods trains and general thefts. Cable theft being one of the crimes that is our priority and affects us the most as the theft of cable, irrespective of the size, terminates the power supply and brings our entire network to a standstill.

The thefts of cable and other infrastructure components and rolling stock components are attractive to criminals mainly because of their scrap value and most of the frequently stolen products have high copper content.

General thefts out of our office blocks, marshalling yards and workshops are also prevalent. These include theft of computers/laptops and the general office 'machinery'.

Some of the products that are targeted on a daily/weekly basis and suspected reasons/motivation for these thefts are:

* Cable (scrap value).

* Locomotive batteries (power source in informal settlements).

* Tarpaulins (roofs for informal settlements and informal traders).

* Freight from our trains (resold on the black market).

* Any part/component made out of aluminium or copper (scrap value).

* Vehicles (national problem).

* Wooden railway sleepers (furniture business).

Spoornet's focus is not so much on passenger matters as the metro trains fall under metro rail, which is a different company. We do, however, have long-distance trains, Shosholoza Meyl, that travel between the provinces. These trains do not have major crime problems and there are security guards posted on every train. Our core focus is on freight and keeping the rail network operational, but one of our focus areas is also on the safety of our employees in operational areas.

The changing threats

The theft situation within Spoornet is very volatile and is driven by various factors such as the geographic dispersion of Spoornet (35 000 km of rail network) socio-economic factors and lack of police resources.

In 2004 we managed to achieve an average decrease of around 40% in all crimes compared to the previous years. We are now experiencing an increase in these crimes.

The increase, (we believe, especially with the component thefts) is largely attributed to the attractive price of scrap copper on the market. Copper now fetches around R60 a kilogram compared to approximately R40 two years ago.

In addressing the copper and aluminium theft, the affected companies and parastatals joined forces to address the crime problem. A committee called the NFTCC (non-ferrous theft combating committee) comprises senior security personnel from Eskom, Telkom, City Power, Municipalities, SAPS organised crime and Business Against Crime.

There are various initiatives that the committee is pursuing, with mixed results. One of the main initiatives was to attempt to regulate the scrap market. The committee was instrumental in and successfully contributed to amendments in the Second Hand Goods Act. This Act was responsible for 'policing' the manner in which the scrap market operates, (amongst other things). The 'old' version of the Act focused more on secondhand vehicles and pawnshops etc. The amendments now contain various restrictions in terms of dealing in scrap metal, with various stipulations that deter dealers from dealing in stolen scrap copper and giving the SAPS more powers over policing the market. The point I am making is that this is one of the major initiatives to destabilise the poorly regulated scrap industry which has had a major impact on copper/non-ferrous metal theft. Despite these initiatives non-ferrous theft is still a major problem.

Improving safety

With regards to employee safety we are in the process of rolling out security walling projects in certain high risk operational areas.

We have run a pilot project in Kaserne Marshalling Yard, situated east of the city centre. The yard was notorious for armed robberies, theft from our containers and attacks on our personnel. These crimes happened on a daily basis with sometimes 40-60 armed intruders invading the yard shooting at guards and employees and looting the containers. We designed a specialised high-tech security wall that was implemented around the entire yard with built-in intruder detection systems, electrified and with intruder beams. To my knowledge it is one of the largest projects of its kind in the country. The project was finalised in October 2005 and reduced all criminal activity in the yard by more than 98%. We do experience the odd petty crime in the yard, which we suspect is internal. We are now rolling out this solution to various other identified high-risk operational areas and believe that it is the solution to these types of crime.

We also experience theft from our containers while they are en-route. Criminals sabotage and exploit rail operating systems, forcing freight trains to a halt and then break open containers and rob the trains. In dealing with this aspect we ran a pilot project to lock containers with special locking mechanisms. The pilot project ran over three months and during the project we experienced no theft. There were, however, a few unsuccessful attempts to break into the containers. We will be rolling out this project in the near future.

Successes so far

In addition to the walling projects already mentioned, we are also implementing access control and CCTV applications in all premises that our staff operate in. These systems will be controlled and monitored from a central security control centre. The control centre is already designed and is 'awaiting' connections from sites around the country.

We have also designed in-house, a live/realtime guard tracking device that allows us to remotely monitor and manage our contract guards.

So far we have had a positive response to some of the projects in terms of crime reduction but also managed to demonstrate to our top management that with the appropriate support and understanding of the crime challenges, we are capable of containing the situation with fewer disruptions to our operational capabilities.

The success of the pilot projects have elevated the focus on crime within Spoornet and as such we have EXCO support, support from our IT department and all other 'involved' departments within the organisation. In many instances personnel felt safer in their workplace.

In conclusion

Our crime situation is relatively unique to Spoornet and cannot be compared to the rail industry elsewhere in the world. I suppose the issue of unemployment, informal settlements, our lucrative scrap market, etc, contributes largely to this.

There are other countries in Africa that also suffer with issues around copper and metal theft. We do meet with heads of rail security as well as police from the SADC countries twice a year to jointly strategise and share ideas. It is, however, noted that other African countries are able to deal with these issues more effectively because of their stringent laws and policing. Also, the rail network in many of these countries is the lifeblood of the economy and ministers and politicians support policing and security initiatives to minimise disruptions of the rail network."

For details contact Spoornet.

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