Durban goes hi-tech in war on crime

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Durban - Desirable items most likely to be stolen in home burglaries - such as cellphones, tablets and laptops - are to be marked with microdot codes to curb “rampant” crime in the Upper Highway area.

The initiative by SAPS Crime Prevention, in partnership with the SA Community Action Network (SA CAN) and Recoveri Microdot, is set to be piloted in Hillcrest Park, Winston Park, Gillitts and Kloof after meeting of crime prevention groups and residents next week.

SA CAN founder, Brian Jones, said microdot technology, where thousands of tiny encoded dots, containing information allowing the item to be easily identified and ownership verified, was applied.

The unique codes were stored in a secure database which matched possession to owner when scanned.

In preparation for the roll-out, Jones sent out 5 000 messages to residents and crime prevention groups notifying them of the project.

“The response was overwhelming,” he said.

Chairman of the Kloof Community Police Forum, Corné Broodryk, called the project “brilliant” and incredibly valuable. Working closely with the police, he said, stolen items were often recovered but the owners could not be traced.

“We will have to see how effective it is in the long term.”

Gillitts Park Community Association chairwoman, Jill Clark, said she was looking forward to hearing more about the project.

“Microdotting is effective and for it to be used on the kind of things likely to be stolen, electronics, and if police are committed to using it, that would make a difference. Anything that helps keep crime out of our area will be welcome.”

Jones said residents in these four suburbs could register at a reduced launch price of R150 a household to have “everything we can get our hands on contaminated with microdots”. He said this would not only help identify the owner should a stolen item be recovered, but would also allow residents to report their items stolen so that if anyone was found in possession of them, they could be arrested immediately.

“We know the success of microdotting in the vehicle industry, so we are interested to see what it does with electronics but we expect this to make quite a dent on crime,” Jones said.

As a further deterrent, once registered and marked, a sign will be supplied to display outside the home warning any would-be thieves that the items are microdotted. “All police stations in KwaZulu-Natal will be equipped with detection equipment for scanning electronic appliances,” Jones said.

He said details would be unveiled at next week’s meeting to be chaired by SAPS provincial head of crime prevention, Brigadier Aaron Harry.

All new vehicles in South Africa are required by law to be microdotted.

The technology was gazetted into law in September last year to combat the more than R1 billion annual loss caused by the theft and hijacking of vehicles.

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