The South African Police Service (SAPS) has a powerful new weapon at its disposal in the fight against crime.
As part of its drive to optimise resource allocation, it is rolling out a sophisticated geographic analysis system similar to those used by the world's leading crime fighting agencies.
The geographic analysis system, which is based on MapInfo's MapXtreme Java Edition, is being implemented by MapInfo's southern African master distributor, Spatial Technologies, in association with State Information Technology Agency (SITA). MapInfo MapXtreme can put mapping applications into the hands of anyone with access to a Web browser. With a simple click, an SAPS member can see a visual representation of the relevant information that is contained in the system's Oracle 8i database.
The first successful pilot implementation of the system took place at the Sandton Police Station earlier this year and SAPS expects to have a pilot system implemented at 340 priority stations nationwide. According to SAPS Crime Systems MD Marelene Meyer, the geographic crime analysis system will form a crucial part of the crime administration system. It is envisaged that the system will allow SAPS to form an instant view of crime patterns and the effect of operations. Such knowledge - and it is more than mere statistics and data - is essential for the optimal allocation and management of police resources.
SAPS information systems management and support director, Willie Meyer, echoes this view: "We want to provide SAPS with a system that will allow those responsible for resource allocation to view a current, geographic representation of criminal activity in an instant. Whether, it is the national commissioner in Pretoria or the local station commander, he should be able to use this tool to plan/distribute resource allocation quickly and accurately." In this regard, one of the system's most important advantages is its ability to zoom in on specific problem areas.
However, it is not on a strategic level that geographic analysis will prove essential in the fight against crime. Meyer points out that detective work is often dependent on geographic analysis. "This system will make it much easier to establish patterns and modus operandi. The arrest of serial criminals, in particular, often depends on these patterns being spotted quickly and accurately."
Spatial Technologies MD, Alan Ellis, says his company is particularly proud of the work done with the SAPS. "Upon completion, the SAPS geographical crime analysis will be one of the most advanced in the world. We are proud to have worked on a project that will undoubtedly improve on the quality of life of all law-abiding citizens. We are confident the system, enforced with the dedication we have witnessed in the SAPS, will represent a turning point in the fight against crime.
Assistant commissioner, Joseph Ngobeni, head of communication and liaison services at SAPS says: "This is in line with our crime combating strategy. Government's commitment to deal with crime relentlessly using all mechanisms at their disposal is creating a formidable unity for change against crime in South Africa."