Time to employ innovation


27 September 2020

Our cops are left playing catch-up as criminals become more inventive

The story behind the arrest of the killers of police anti-gang section commander Charl Kinnear reveals, in sickly and yet fascinating ways, how imaginative and daring criminals have become.

Unlike many, the outlaws seem adept at using technology for their nefarious ends. A mampara of a village sniper waits for you outside your home to take you out. But the killers of Kinnear used hi-tech to track his movements exploiting, it seems, people’s heavy reliance on cellphones and technology. Just how something like this is possible today, with all the technology accessible to police and other authorities, boggles the mind.

The shady character police believe is responsible for Kinnear’s killing is Zane Kilian, a burly former rugby player, who allegedly tracked Kinnear for months. Kilian pinged Kinnear’s cellphone more than 2000 times, including, predictably, on the day of his murder.

Kilian works as a debt collector for car finance defaulters, a position that strategically gives him access to tracking devices. Cellphone networks apparently allow car trackers to trace cellphones when they claim the tracking devices are malfunctioning. And therein lies a loophole the likes of Kilian use to trace us. Kilian appeared in Bishop Lavis magistrate’s court represented, interestingly, by a lawyer (Eric Bryer) who previously represented Czech fugitive Radovan Krejcir.

And there’s another interesting name – Krejcir. Locked up in the belly of Kgosi Mampuru Maximum Prison in Tshwane, following a botched R248-million attempted escape, Krejcir arrived in South Africa in April 2007 under the false name Egbert Jules Savy.

He was later to be linked to the abduction and murder of Stuttgart-based car-tuning factory founder Uwe Gemballa, Cape Town-based underworld crime boss Cyril Beeka and the bribing of officers linked to his botched maximum-prison escape. Krejcir also “survived” a James Bond-type attack when a stolen VW Polo with remote-controlled guns rigged behind its licence plate riddled his car moments after he stepped out, missing him by inches. The car then exploded.

The point though is that criminals use a level of finesse to pull off moves that leave even the cops’ lower jaws dropped. When many in society don’t embrace technology, the criminals seem a few steps ahead. From a distance, they look like they’re learning more from Silicon Valley than corporate South Africa is.

Looked at closely, though, the men in blue do score some significant victories. Krejcir is behind bars. Ditto Killian. That showy Witbank “businessman” is running for dear life. The mafioso who robbed and collapsed a bank in Limpopo have an appointment with court officials. So, in a way, the system does creak into motion. Even though we know they could do better. We don’t have to be alarmist. That doesn’t help achieve anything.

What does, though, is asking ourselves why criminals seem to pull a fast one, almost each time, with our cops forced to chase, rather than use technology to prevent crime effectively and efficiently?

Put differently: It’s good that police do arrest and sometimes convict the worst among us, even when they use advanced tech to commit their dastardly deeds. However, it would be great for police, once in a while, to be ahead of the game; to use technology to stop criminals before they visit us the periodic horrors they do.

That said, a similar point can be made against all of corporate South Africa, if not corporate giants globally, today. Many sectors of the economy are saddled with dwindling customer bases. Why? We spend a lot of time doing research, trying to understand the customers we have. We obsess so much about this that we lose sight of how we gained them in the first place.

We forget that the world is permanently in a state of flux. Shouldn’t we be spending more time on audience development as opposed to audience retention?

Look at it this way: It is important to predict customer needs and come up with products and or services that will make life better even before customers know they have such needs. That is the basis of disruptive innovation.

The creators of Walkman, Akio Morita, who is the founder of Japanese company, Sony, did not rely on research. Instead, he invented a product that predicted customer interest. And because the world is always evolving, they created a new trend.

Look at Google, Facebook, Twitter and many other inventions out of Silicon Valley that are now threatening to displace traditional forms of communication. Are they a result of focus groups or the result of purposeful focus on creating something that solves a customer’s challenge/inconvenience?

The point is we can critic the police for always being reactive with minimal success and feel good about ourselves. But the truth is the police, like many corporates around the globe, suffer from the same problem. We don’t sufficiently appreciate that the world is constantly evolving. We don’t take an inventive approach to turn things around. We think bietjie bietjie maak meer!

Starting with the police, they must have a division that focuses on technology and be given room to be more imaginative and daring. We need stories about how police have used technology not just to crack complicated cases, but to prevent crime.

In this way, the wife and children of Kinnear would still have a husband and father today. • This is Sefara’s last column.




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