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Saturday, July 11, 2009

In case of attack: Hide in the bathroom, blow the whistle in short bursts

There's something about documenting an experience while you're having that takes you out of the moment and reduces the potency of the moment. I didn't blog a whole lot this past week. I guess I've just been busy with the experience itself.

On Monday night our client asked us to attend and present about our project at the local Rotary Club in White River (South Africa). I was struck by the whiteness of the audience – not a single black person. I am certain that the club itself doesn't exclude people of any color, but it was still weird. I did the presentation for the team and got a nice response. It was a good practice run-through for our final report next week.

During the week, we visited a lodge where the lodge owner was once held hostage at gunpoint. She has, since then, put together a comprehensive set of safety tactics on her premises including putting a whistle in each shower. The point is that she instructs her guests to lock themselves in the bathroom and blow the whistle if there's a security crisis on the premises. She demonstrated with her hand gestures how the high windows in the bathrooms would make it hard for someone to shoot into. This tour was preceded by perhaps the best South African cooking I've tasted yet.

On Thursday we joined the Cash In Transit Forum (CIT), which is a local group comprising security firms, the South African Police, Businesses Against Crimes and a few other interested parties. They were putting on a demonstration of automatic license plate recognition technology. Businesses Against Crime has partnered with CIT to get together the funding for a few of these vehicles to patrol the Mpumalanga area – so many of the crimes committed here involve stolen vehicles that improving that problem will potentially have a big overall effect on crime in the region.

The technology itself was incredible to witness: they drove us around in the car and in just five minutes we were able to find half a dozen vehicles with some kind of issue. The license-plate recognition reads the plate and cross-references it with half a dozen databases in 0.8 seconds. It can read dozens in a minute. Impressive.

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