Christmas is a busy time for criminals in South Africa

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas—which spells a busy time for criminals, notes ATG Digital, an access control and visitor management software company.

Stats SA’s Governance, Public Safety, and Justice Survey (GPSJS) 2019/20 showed that housebreaking remains the number one crime in South Africa. The department said that “housebreaking or burglary has consistently been the most common crime experienced by households in South Africa,” as measured over five years.

The bulk of the estimated 1.2 million incidences, affecting 891,000 households, peaked in June, September, and December. Unsurprisingly, these dates coincide with school holidays, ATG Digital said.

“The majority of these crimes are burglaries where no one is home. This is distinct from a home invasion, where people are at home at the time of the incident,” said ATG Digital’s Ariel Flax.

The group said that a combination of License Plate Recognition (LPR), Optical Character Recognition (OCR), digital scanning, and analytical insights proactively combat crime.

Comparing government stats to ATG Digital’s data, Flax said that the efficacy of LPR, OCR, scanning and data analysis are evident. “The presence of cameras at estate entrances alone serve as a massive deterrent. We see crime stats in estates drop significantly following the installation of cameras—before the technology has even gathered meaningful intelligence.

“Then, a system like ATG Cam [an IoT Camera with LPR] works in conjunction with handheld license disc scanners to automate boom opening on positive vehicle and ID capture. Cars with fake plates—typical of a stolen vehicle— are easily identified,” he said.

Syndicates often use fake plates, so the system first checks that the licence plate and disc match. Those details then run through several databases such as the SAPS Stolen Vehicle and Circulation, SAICB (Insurance Crime Bureau), and BACSA (Business Against Crime) databases.

If it identifies and flags a stolen vehicle, a system alert notifies security personnel.

These measures effectively prevent potential crimes, but what happens when robbers somehow manage to gain access to the community or estate? Flax said that this is where data monitoring and analysis are crucial.

“Elementary features like tracking ID, vehicle details, and ‘time on site’ can stop a burglary in progress,” said Flax. “Machine Learning studies behavioural trends. You can create alerts based on triggers, like a courier delivery (usually drop and go) remaining on-site longer than the specified threshold. Security can go investigate, or search the vehicle before egress.”

After a year of further retrenchments due to lockdowns and business-crippling riots, the threat of festive season crime rising is a stark reality. Housing complexes and access- controlled residential communities can offer residents greater peace of mind with bolstered security ahead of the holidays.


Read: How much digital, IT and tech jobs pay in South Africa

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Christmas is a busy time for criminals in South Africa