new trick to steal vehicles uncovered

MOTORISTS in Johannesburg should be careful when leaving their cars in the city centre since thugs have adopted a new way of gaining access to vehicles.

The latest trick was revealed yesterday when the Johannesburg Metro Police Department (JMPD), police and Omega Risk Solutions presented a progress report on the CCTV macro surveillance cameras at a press briefing in the city centre yesterday.

The trick relies on thugs spotting motorists when they park and standing close to the vehicles.

"When the driver closes the car with an immobiliser one thug holds the door handle. The result is that immobiliser is not activated," JMPD spokesperson Inspector Edna Mamonyane said.

"The trend with motorists is that they don't check if all the doors are locked, so the thugs gain access to the car and even steal it," she said.

Mamonyane said this trick was first discovered through the cameras in Yeoville. Police reacted swiftly and four men were arrested.

The R85million camera infrastructure was installed by Omega Risk Solutions to help fight crime in the Johannesburg CBD.

About 240 cameras have been installed in the city and have resulted in 46000 incidents being observed.

A 23-member team works 24 hours a day reporting any suspicious movement on the streets.

Each staff member works for an hour and rests for two because they monitor 15 cameras, which demands a big attention span.

The police are informed within a minute of an incident and normally responds within 10 minutes.

Mamonyane said 40 plain-clothed metro police officers have been dispatched to the streets to react to calls from the control room.

Omega managing director Clive van Ryneveld said: "We spot people stealing manhole lids, burst water pipes and dumped garbage and report it to the relevant city service.

"People noticing crime incidents in their streets can report those spots and they will be considered when the operation is expanded."

The number is 011-378-1000.

"When thugs are arrested they are ordered to look into the camera to identify themselves," Ryneveld said

He said police officers come to the centre to ask for video footage which they use as evidence in convicting suspects.

Mamonyane admitted that the operation needed to be rolled out to more streets in the city.