CSIR on Impact of Technology on Crime: briefing

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19 February 2003
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Meeting Summary

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Meeting report

19 February 2003

Chairperson: Mr M E George

Documents handed out:
Impact of Technology on levels of crime

CSIR outlined the technological and scientific capabilities which could be provided to the government to improve its capacity in combating and preventing crime levels in the country.
An integrated response to the increasing levels of crime and a willingness on the part of government to invest in such technological developments, so as to outthink the minds of the criminals and improve the standard of safety was needed.

Members were concerned about advanced technological equipment developed by CSIR possible being accessible to criminals. Another issue raised was maintaining a balance between the constitutional right to privacy with such technological developments. Members inquired if the proposed technological capabilities by CSIR had been tested in other countries.

Briefing by CSIR

The presenters highlighted the core technological focus of CSIR as well as the nature of activities they were currently involved in. These include, research development and implementation services; global science and technological links and perspectives; technology transfer and technology assessment; software developments and products; policy and strategic decision support.

Ms Holtmann of CSIR informed the members of the committee that one of the major problems facing South Africa in the department of Safety and Security was the lack of fundamental data. However she informed the members of the committee that CSIR was currently conducting workshops at local levels with the department of justice on court management data analysis and other intervening issues.

Mr Zondo (ANC) asked about the kinds of equipment CSIR produced. Were any measures in place to prevent such technological equipment from falling into the wrong hands and used to advance criminal acts.

Mr Swart (DP) asked if CSIR saw any coordination between the key role players in the department of safety and security for example between the SAPS, Scorpions and SANDF. Secondly he asked if CSIR had any discussion with senior police about SAPS contracting with CSIR for assistance? He further asked about the ways in which CSIR investigate and monitor progress and realign that with the budget models.

With regard to the technological capabilities presented by CSIR, Mr Swart asked if those models had been tested in other countries?

Mr Geldenhuys (NNP) was concerned about criminals being ahead of police and asked how could the department attempt to stay ahead of criminals in light of the available manpower and limited resources?

Mr Moshoe (ACDP) asked if CSIR had any preventative measures to ensure that the technological equipment was not accessible to the wrong hands. Secondly, he asked about the ways in which CSIR balanced their technological advances with the constitutional right to privacy. Mr Moshoe was concerned about the increase of truck and motor vehicle hijackings and asked if CSIR was involved in producing tracking devices that could track vehicle while in motion as well as in enclosed-underground areas.

Ms Holtmann (CSIR) informed the committee that in South Africa there was an enormous demand of safety and security but the biggest challenge for CSIR was an issue of a mandate. For CSIR to play a massive role in combating crime it was important for them to get a clear mandate from the government. By that they would be able to provide appropriate policy support.

With regard to the question of whether senior police members of SAPS have approached CSIR, Mrs Holtmann informed the committee that they had been working very closely with the police on specific issues and on various pilot projects on in informal basis.

Responding to Mr Moshoe's question of the increasing levels of truck hijackings, she informed the committee that CSIR was currently having extensive consultation with the members of the police force in the area of Gauteng and that pilot projects and specialized courts had been set up on that regard. However she was of the view that for these pilot projects to be effectively utilized they had to be effected at provincial levels and that there was a need for some form of coordination and integration between the departments.

Responding to Mr Geldenhuys question on ways in which the government could be ahead of criminal minds. She conceded that the government had to invest in institutions like CSIR in its goal to outthink the minds of criminals. Furthermore, with regard to the increase levels of violence in trains, Ms Holtmann informed the committee members that this was one pressing issues in their programs for this year especially after the judgment passed by the Cape High Court against Metrorail.

Mr Kirsten (CSIR) explained with regards to the control of CSIR technological products, that most of the equipment produced by CSIR was controlled by international treaties and national legislations, for example the Act on explosive products. Furthermore none of the information thereto was distributed unless authorized by relevant authorities and that all their staff members had to obtain security clearance.

Mr Kirsten agreed that the coordination between these national role players such as SAPS, Scorpions and SANDAF was not where it should be.

Regarding the question of balancing the constitutional right to privacy with their technological equipment Mr Kirsten informed the committee that CSIR would not breach privacy however, they only support organizations that have obtained a mandate from the relevant authorities, for example the Scorpions.

Mr Kirsten informed the committee members that tracking underground motor vehicles was not easy because that would need some form of advanced transmitters.

Ms Holtmann stated that to improve the standard of safety and security in the country, there was a need for massive communication and education. CSIR endorsed a policy of restorative justice as opposed to punitive justice whereby government responds to increasing crime levels in a restorative manner.

Meeting was adjourned .


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