Mark Ricketts | Fighting crime with high-tech weapons
"We are here, where we are, and it took a long time to get here, and it is not going to be easy to leave here. It is not going to be overnight and it is not going to be instant."
- Robert Montague, minister of national security
Gosh, if we could just break the cycle of crime and violence by making citizen safety and security our highest priority. A tall order, yes, based on statistics indicating that murder is on the rise.
A possible breakthrough might come as a result of technology's impact on combating crime and violence, that is, of course, if we could ever find the will to allocate sufficient resources to allow our police to have a new generation of technologies and tools. Technology's impact on crime and violence must be understood in the context of private and national security.
Interestingly, in response to my column last week on technology and crime, a Jamaican, Dr Michael Leon, living in Cayman, made the following observation. "Crime here in our three islands is very low. The police, The Royal Cayman Islands Police Force, have the latest technology to stop, for example, a motorist because of traffic infringement. All the new-generation technologies and tools you mentioned in your recent column, Cayman has them and more. The government here sees to it that its citizens are protected and that crime, in any form, is approached scientifically and nipped in the bud."
Can you imagine Jamaica having a similar approach and having, in its arsenal, the latest in technology, whereby submarines, large ocean liners, and even the tiniest go-fast boats used in the guns-for-drugs trade could be visible to law enforcement, regardless of the time of day or night!
Listening to Dominic Allen, CEO, CTRI-IT, a technological research and development company, explain the operational details is fascinating and enlightening.
As he and his company's Chief Strategy Officer Matthew Hann say, "Internet Of Things (IOT) is a development of the Internet in which everyday objects have network connectivity, allowing them to send and receive data. This data transfer could allow our nation's security reach to expand into international waters by mounting IOT devices on about 25 buoys in the sea around the island.
"These devices would communicate with each other and a central security base in real time, and would provide information on all the oceanic vessels, both below and above water up to 30 kilometres from land. So, anybody or anything coming or going we will know, and what is of signal importance is that we can be a leader in the world in this area."
Excitingly, Allen and Hann give yet another example of gunshots in some distant neck of the woods being traced and identified. "Beyond surveillance out at sea, a similar technology can be applied further inland to better protect our people. Devices programmed to 'listen' to the decibel levels specific to gunshots can quickly measure and determine what type of weapon was fired and the exact location the shooting took place."
Allen adds, "This data transfer through the Internet will improve the way we live, as it facilitates and offers us different options for our security needs. Homes with televisions, microwaves and ovens will more and more be managed from a private security standpoint through our mobile phones, creating more connected cities and even smarter national and personal security."
NEW SECURITY SYSTEMS
Sean Clacken, managing director of Hawkeye, is excited at the launch of his new Hawkeye Total Connect, which allows customers to manage their security system and lifestyle devices from their phones. Providing more details, he said, "Users can arm their alarm to receive notification when alarm events occur, view cameras live at their home, as well as recorded events, and control devices such as lights, doors, locks and automated gates."
King Alarm's Managing Director John Azar is now launching sea water patrol to protect some of his larger clients on the coast. "This service, along with closed-circuit television systems (CCTV), video analytics, and advances in vehicle tracking and fleet management, have allowed us to remain on the cutting edge of technology," Azar notes.
Beyond detection, identification, and investigation, technology can also be used proactively to deter crime.
Reinforcing this, Douglas Halsall, chairman of Advanced Integrated Systems, cites the example of mobile money solutions, which aid in the prevention of money laundering.
Says Halsall: "As our economy becomes more formalised, we should put in place a policy that says all remittances should not be paid out in cash but should first go into an account.
"Quisk, a mobile money solution we recently introduced and launched in Jamaica, would be the perfect partner in that plan, especially as it can be used in both a smartphone and what we in Jamaica refer to as 'bangers', or phones with basic features."
He adds, "Mobile money is as good as having cash, as easy and even more convenient to spend, and it is auditable, which means the information can be traced. A similar benefit could also be derived in the painful, criminal activity of praedial larceny. This could be done through issuing of electronic receipts that can be easily presented and validated by the police."
A condition for Jamaica moving aggressively in adopting the new-generation technologies and tools is that mobile money should be driven by 'efficiency brokers' who are specialists in their space. This requirement, Halsall feels, is sometimes overlooked when contracts are being awarded.
"As new technology specialists in Jamaica, what happens to us is that we will submit the most comprehensive strategy for achieving First-World status and efficiency and the excellent technologists at RFI (Request For Information) from which an RFP (Request For Proposal) is done, in preparing the tender document, might overlook the business case and the specific environment that this solution is intended to address."
BRIDGING THE GAP
As new technology is adapted, a major problem for legislators is how they can bridge the gap between the old and the new surveillance world in terms of capacity and accountability. Clearly, more intrusive surveillance by the police has its challenges and requires a different approach, that of acknowledging, for example, that a key aspect of surveillance is covert communications, capturing of data that can involve a unique code that is incorporated in each mobile handset.
The public outrage arising over our high crime rate, which at times seems to be at odds with our strong defence of individual rights, freedom, and entitlement, could result in a legislative tussle between what is technically possible to finally bring crime and violence under control and what are the legal requirements for accountability, privacy and transparency in the use of surveillance techniques.
Yes, we have to make some tough choices, but safety and security of our citizens should be a non-negotiable option.
- Mark Ricketts, economist, author and lecturer living in California, was chief economist of the Vancouver Board of Trade in Canada; deputy chairman of the Jamaica Stock Exchange; and assistant editor of the 'Financial Post', Canada's largest financial weekly newspaper. Email feedback to email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org.