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SOPA: Gauteng augments crime fight with e-policing

Simnikiwe Mzekandaba
By Simnikiwe Mzekandaba
Johannesburg, 21 Feb 2023
Gauteng premier Panyaza Lesufi.
Gauteng premier Panyaza Lesufi.

The Gauteng government has declared the battle against crime an apex priority, with plans to deploy technology-driven solutions to deal with the high levels of criminality in the province.

So said premier Panyaza Lesufi, delivering his maiden State of the Province Address (SOPA) at the Johannesburg City Hall yesterday.

Lesufi expressed that Gauteng has become a “home of heartless and merciless criminals” that do as they wish. He warned that if the situation is left unattended, it marks the “end of all of us”.

Given these challenges, the premier said the provincial government will explore a number of e-policing solutions, including drones, e-panic buttons and a new integrated command centre (ICC).

“We should unleash all our resources at our disposal to tackle crime. To this end, we are increasing our budget for fighting crime from R750 million to multi-billion rands in the next three years.”

He explained that from 1 April, the provincial government will start to connect suburbs, townships, business districts, schools and other public places with high-tech, face and car recognition CCTVs.

In addition, the plan is to arm residents with e-panic buttons that will be linked to law enforcement agencies, CCTVs and the new ICC, he indicated. “Every time a citizen feels threatened, they will be able to press the e-panic button that will register in the offices of our law enforcement agencies and will unleash all forms of support to our citizens.

“We will unveil two new helicopters at the beginning of the next financial year and add four additional helicopters within the 2023/2024 budget cycle. The private security industry has pledged to add theirs as well to the pool of helicopters that will patrol our skies.

“To ensure our police are not sacrificial lambs in the battles with criminals, we are at an advanced stage to procure 180 state-of-the-art drones that will infiltrate areas that are difficult to patrol and police. These drones are equipped with technology that can capture the direction of bullets and where they come from.”

According to Lesufi, 400 new police cars equipped with gadgets have been procured to provide 24-hour patrols in communities. An additional 6 000 young men and women have been recruited to monitor and police Gauteng.

“The private security industry is forwarding 10 000 people armed and ready to combine their forces and resources with ours under a joint command structure that will be guided by our provincial commissioner of police.

“This is a strong message to criminals: no more playing days in Gauteng.”

He further noted that to strengthen the fight against crime, the province needs to revamp its legislation on three crucial areas: the registration of cars, elimination of illegal guns, and the need to migrate the province to use less cash in business transactions.

“The current number plates system is running out of the numeric and letters. We want to take advantage of this situation to introduce new, hard to copy and tamper-proof number plates.

“We issued [a notice in] the Government Gazette on 17 February 2023 for consultation and comments on new security features. This new system will also assist in managing the abuse of temporary number plates. We call upon SADC to create a new database of all vehicles within the region, so that we can have a common verification platform.

“Those with illegal guns are now playing God; they determine who lives and who dies. Together with the private security industry, we have found a solution that will assist in tracking stolen guns and locating the owners. We will first migrate our law enforcement agencies’ guns in this system and then request official gun-holders to also register their guns, so that their guns can be tracked.

“To contribute to our desire to use less cash in business transactions in our province, we urge our retailers and other businesses to join the hospitality industry in eliminating cash transactions. If we all do so, we will see fewer business robberies, cash heists and ATM bombings.”