Article and photos by Annalise Kempen
Police members who are passionate about making a difference warm my heart. At the 18th Tracker SAPS annual awards ceremony that was held on 6 October 2017 in Pretoria, I had the opportunity to meet a few of these members. These are some of the many police members who are willing to go a few extra miles, often while having to do their job with minimal resources. Fortunately, there is one type of resource that many of these members have access to, namely Tracker technology which assists them in vehicle tracking, recoveries and subsequent arrests.
Celebrating a milestone
Twenty-one years ago, the formal relationship between the South African Police Service and Tracker started after the two parties had signed an agreement in April 1996. It entailed that Tracker would supply vehicle tracking and recovery systems. This agreement was made after the SAPS had entered into negotiations with Tracker and Unicode to obtain technology to support the police in fighting vehicle-related crime. At the time, Servamus reported that the two systems would complement each other in that the tracking system would enable the police to successfully track and recover stolen vehicles, while Unicode would provide irrefutable identification of the vehicle when it was recovered and ensure retrieval by its rightful owner. On 1 October 1996, the official switch-on of the Tracker stolen vehicle tracking and recovery system took place (Huisamen, 1996).
In those years, having a tracking device installed in your vehicle was not as common as it is today. Nevertheless, two large vehicle manufacturers endorsed the Tracker system. Their reasons included that the system had a direct link to the police and operated nationally. These days, it is far more common to have a tracking system installed in one's vehicle and it has even become a prerequisite by many short-term insurers for specific vehicle models with a higher risk of being stolen or hijacked. Yet, Tracker is still the only vehicle tracking company in South Africa to have a formal agreement with the SAPS.
The results speak for themselves after 21 years
Thanks to the Tracker/SAPS partnership, which has lasted for the past 21 years, more than 84 000 stolen and hijacked vehicles have been recovered, which amounts to a monetary value of almost R13 billion in today's terms. In addition, almost 16 500 suspects have been arrested at an arrest rate of one arrest for every five vehicles recovered. This has been made possible thanks to the thousands of police members who have been trained in using the Tracker technology that has been fitted in almost 1500 police vehicles and aircraft. However, having technology means nothing if people, and in this case police members, do not use this technology to aid them in fighting crime.