Cape Town – The US secret service is in Cape Town. But this time it’s not to track down an American fugitive or bust a local cybercrime syndicate.
Instead, the agency will join a number of organisations and individuals speaking at the Crime Stoppers Conference which begins on Monday morning.
It is the first time the event, now in its 35th year, has been hosted in Africa. According to the organisers, with almost 600 local and international delegates attending, it could be the biggest turn-out the conference has ever had.
The event is the brainchild of Crime Stoppers International (CSI), an organisation set up to give people an anonymous and confidential mechanism to report crime and criminal activity.
CSI president Alex Macdonald said tip-offs had resulted in almost 1 million arrests across the world, with the seizure of more than R110 billion in illicit drugs.
The conference will see 60 top local and foreign speakers cover a variety of topics, from drug trafficking to corruption.
Event chairman and Crimeline head Yusuf Abramjee said on Sunday: “This is the time of the whistle-blower. Crime affects all of us. It doesn’t discriminate and stretches across continents and communities. Crime evolves and criminals adapt and innovate. We have the unenviable task to evolve too and innovate.”
President Jacob Zuma wrote in a statement that tip-offs received via Crime Stop and Crime Line in the past seven years had resulted in 3 280 arrests and the confiscation of more than R56 million worth of illegally or unlawfully obtained property and goods.
The Drug Watch campaign in Gauteng and the Western Cape, which called on residents to keep a watchful eye on their own neighbourhoods, has put 30 000 drug offenders behind bars. But this year’s release of the national crime statistics revealed that drug-related crimes were still on the rise, with the number of cases reported to the police up by almost 20 percent from last year.
“If we are to make even more meaningful inroads in the fight against crime, as a people, we need to fully activate our sense of community and each play our role in supporting the law-enforcement officers of South Africa,” said Zuma.
“We must blow the whistle on crime when we are aware of it, whether it happens on a street corner or behind a closed bedroom door.”
Among those speaking during the conference will be Michael Burgin of the US Secret Service. He will touch on the topic of “The Evolution of Cyber Crime”. Earlier this year America’s Homeland Security sent a task team to Joburg to nab a group of alleged online scammers, part of a larger global syndicate operating in and around the US.
The Dutch National Rapporteur on Trafficking of Human Beings and Sexual Violence Against Children will address the global threat of the sex trade, while Stanley Jacobs of the London Community Rehabilitation Company will delve into “Integrated Offender Management”, which seeks to target prolific criminals to break their cycle of crime.
Lieutenant Matthew Zucker of the Las Vegas Metro Police Department will spend an hour chatting about Mexican Drug Cartels. Minister of Environmental Affairs Edna Molewa will deliver an address on the rise of environmental crimes, including wildlife trade and its impact on economies and the ecosystem.
The SAPS section head for the Victim Identification Centre, Brigadier Leonie Ras, will speak about identifying victims in the aftermath of an international disaster, a topical issue following the death of 80 South Africans in a guest house in Nigeria.
The event is a snapshot of the world’s battle with crime. And while there will be significant focus on the problems within South Africa’s borders – officials from the Hawks and other police units will make up various panels during the conference – it would be a chance to network and share experiences and expertise, said the national police commissioner, General Riah Phiyega.
“Crime and criminal activity is not unique to any one country or nation. Many crime trends, and certainly most organised syndicates, do not operate within the confines of borders.
“Let us all open our minds while participating in the various discussions and ensure that we share best practices and experiences,” Phiyega said.
The conference is taking place at the Cape Town International Convention Centre and will run until Wednesday.