Beagle watch

Today, I learned that there is a security company in Gauteng called Beagle Watch. I have a number of issues with this.

To the uitlanders, allow me to explain. Here in SA, many people have their house alarms connected to an armed response security company. That means that when your alarm goes off – most likely because you forgot to switch it off before letting the dog out – a friendly man with a gun will show up at your door in case you’re in trouble. I’ve actually yet to hear a story of anyone actually being saved by the friendly man with a gun, but perception is everything and if it helps you sleep more soundly at night to pay a man with a gun to be on-call, then that’s great.

There are all the usual suspects (pun intended) on the scene: ADT, Princeton, Fidelity, Chubb. And then there are the regional services as well. They claim to understand the local crime problems better than the bigger, less personal entities. One of these local offerings is Beagle Watch in Randburg:

Response Time

The best in class response times! No matter what the emergency, Beagle Watch will be there first!

A Dedicated Team

Proactive security is our focus – we are the only company dedicated to the prevention of crime in your area through continuous, 24 hour, high visibility patrols.

Continuous and 24 hour. Colour me impressed.

But when you choose an animal to name your security company after, you want one that’s ever-vigilant, alert, attentive, powerful and quick to react.

I have a beagle. It’s really none of those things.

And so the name really doesn’t instill any sense of confidence in me. I’m only warning them about this after the well-documented collapse of Sloth Security in Constantia back in 2013.

The badge is also a problem:

It’s like they got an 8-year-old to draw a beagle. Three beagles.

Beagles do have moments where their senses are piqued and they’re ready for action. These moments usually relate to seeing a squirrel in the park and generally only last for 3 or 4 seconds. But a key feature of a momentarily alert beagle is the elevated tail. This is an evolutionary hangover from when they used to be powered by electricity, much like dodgem cars. Also, they always face left when they are ready to go. See?

Squirrel-spotting beagle

A beagle with a tail as depicted in the Beagle Watch logo is depressed, tired or depressed and tired and is certainly not going to offer any resistance to local criminals.

Also, you’d never get three to line up in such an orderly fashion. At least one would already be asleep or foraging for food.

My suggestion to Beagle Watch (and I will be forwarding them a link to this post so that they realise their error in nomenclature), is that they change the name of the business, soonest. And it doesn’t have to be a train smash of process. A simple, carefully applied daub of black paint on each of their vehicles turns Beagle Watch into bEagle Watch: the genus Aquila possessing all of the qualities one looks for in a neighbourhood security company. And they also have an aggressive beak and talons, filling the crims with a sense of fear and dread. Everything that a beagle doesn’t.

Mark my words: you can watch the crime rate in Randburg drop like the proverbial stone.

I’m frankly amazed that no-one has come up with this idea before.

Drones are bad, mmmkay?

Look, I’m not stupid. (Careful now.)

There’s no doubt that some people will use drones illegally and will do bad things with them. Just like some people have done and will continue to do bad things with basically everything else that exists: shoesvans, turtlesfixings, sports equipment, cutlerybits of musical instrumentsdogs, diggers – even fruit.

I could go on, but I’m sure you get my point.

But this BBC article – ostensibly about how criminals using drones can or could be detected and brought to justice – does seem to go out of its way in order to portray drones in an extraordinarily bad light. (Which, incidentally, makes for less than ideal flying conditions.)

I mean, just look at the image they chose to illustrate it:

That’s exactly what I look like when I fly my drone.
Furtive. Disguised. Illegal. Determined. Criminal.
(And with a jaunty tilt on my remote control.)

Still, an excellent demonstration of VLOS. Well done.

And then there are words, like these:

Whether it is flying illicit goods into forbidden places, spying on people, interrupting the work of the emergency services or worrying wild animals or aircraft, the threat they present is growing.

Spying on people? Have you any idea how absolutely amazing your drone equipment has to be to “spy” on people? My Mavic has a 12MP camera. It’s half as powerful as the one on my cellphone. And a lot noisier.
My DSLR and its telephoto lens though? Silent and powerful, like a beagle fart. Amazing for spying on people, and yet its ownership is wholly exempt from any legislation. Hmm.

Sure, someone managed to get some cigarettes and a DVD player (actually quite impressive) into a prison using a drone. And that’s not good. But then, naughty people put mobile phones into chocolate bars to get them “inside”, so should we…  should we ban the sale of Mars bars or something? No. No, we shouldn’t, because they’re delicious and most people just eat them, completely legally.

For the article to then go on and use a quote from a “drone expert” suggesting that drones could be used to disperse bio-weaponised anthrax does seem to be just a teensy-tiny bit scaremongery. Because yes, while it is technically possible, the issue there is not really the drone, but rather the bio-weaponised anthrax, no?

All in all, this does seem to be a disappointingly one-sided article. Yes, it’s about crime and drones, but in telling us about those things, it does seem to suggest that crime is all that drones are going to be used for, tarring all drone pilots with the same sticky brush, and conveniently ignoring the many thousands of us who are operating wholly within the law.
But then of course, we must remember that it’s ever so cool to hate these new-fangled tools of annoyance and terrorism – and their users – at the moment, so maybe it’s just trying to tap into the Daily Mail-created zeitgeist.

I completely understand the need for some legislation around this hobby (both flying drones and production of bio-weaponised anthrax), but I’m growing increasingly tired of the incessant anti-drone rhetoric I seem to be seeing everywhere these days.
I just hope that the individuals charged with making the rules are a little bit less alarmist and blinkered than journo Paul Marks and… well… everyone else, actually.

Crime hits new low

And by a “new low”, I don’t mean it’s just not happening.
No. I mean, could it actually get any more despicable?

I can hardly bring myself to share this. Yes, sadly, SA is known for its crime, but it’s not nearly as bad as you might expect if you read (and believed all that you read) in the newspapers and the internet. I checked this morning, and despite the frankly terrifying murder rate here, I was actually still alive.

On the other end of the crime scale is the Isle of Man. At worst, crime there is sparse, and minor.

Or rather: it was. Because today – heartbroken – I read this story:

Fullscreen capture 2016-07-12 124022 PM.bmp

You can keep your violence and your drugs and guns. When an heron garden ornament is taken from a heron garden ornament owner’s garden, something has gone seriously wrong with the system.
And it’s not just any heron garden ornament. It’s a sentimental heron garden ornament. One which wasn’t some recent addition to the heron garden ornament owner’s garden, one which had been there for many years and one with which the heron garden ornament owner had developed a special bond. Not quite enough of a physical bond to prevent it from being nicked; more of an emotional bond, but still, a bond, nevertheless.

image

The biggest sadness here is that the police in the Isle of Man simply aren’t set up to deal with this kind of thing. And that means that the heron garden ornament owner will probably never see his or her heron garden ornament again.
And that’s despite the clever effort of the IOM Newspapers at the bottom of the story there, with their endeavour to tempt the perpetrator or perpetrators of this heinous crime to inadvertently give themselves away by sending in the best pictures, video or story of the crime. I know that if I was bold enough to take a heron garden ornament from a heron garden ornament owner’s garden, I’d certainly have snapped a couple of pics and grabbed a bit of footage to document my outrageous actions and share with my criminal peers down at the pub on a Friday evening when I was trying to fence my ill gotten ornamental birdlife for a bit of extra ice cream money.

The urge to show off to a (slightly) larger audience by sharing that evidence with “iomtoday.co.im” would probably prove too much to bear and I strongly suspect that the hardened criminal(s) involved in this disgusting theft may very well struggle with the same sort of impulse.

It’s the only hope. For the sake of preserving the very low crime rate on the Isle of Man and in the defence of other wildlife-themed garden ornaments on the island, we can only hope it bears fruit.

I’ll keep you posted.

Smile through the tears

Hard(er) times are coming for SA. The effects of high inflation and the weak Rand are beginning to show more and more, with new stories of job losses, struggling families and desperation becoming an almost daily occurrence. It’s heartbreaking and it’s worrying.

Even those of us who are lucky enough not to be directly affected are seeing a difference. The shopping bill is suddenly through the roof, the requests to help support more members of people’s families and friends are up, and the soaring crime rate is back on the agenda at every braai and dinner party (not that it ever really went away). Such is the lack of confidence in our beleaguered police force that petty criminals can act with complete impunity knowing that their victims won’t even bother to register a case, as all parties concerned are well aware that nothing will come of it.

Here’s a good example:

Opportunistic thieves were caught on a dashcam by Cape Town businessman Marc Nussey last Thursday just after 11am, casually opening the canopy of a bakkie that stopped at a traffic light before making off with a box of toothpaste and other goods.

Nussey posted pictures and a video of the incident on Facebook to warn people and identify the culprits.

He said when he caught up with the driver and told him what had happened, the man did not seem interested in laying charges.

And in the same report:

The Facebook post attracted a number of responses, including from one man who said he watched the same men snatching a box of frozen food from a similar bakkie.

“I jumped out and chased them into Lavender Hill, but could not catch them. I then drove directly to Kirstenhof (police station) to report the crime. They practically yawned in my face,” he wrote.

Still, there’s always hope. And the hope comes in the spirit of one of the other comments on the thread:

Last month, a motorist warned people to stay alert when he saw some guys forcing open a delivery vehicle and running away with a large tin of tomatoes “all in view of a metro police vehicle standing two car lengths ahead”.

“The delivery guy gave chase picking up a brick and unleashed from 10m range, hitting the skollie between the (shoulder) blades who returned fire with the tin of tomatoes like a world-class shot putt athlete.”

The problems are real, but I feel that while we’ve still got a sense of proportion (and humour) about them, for the most part, they’re manageable. The situation is bringing out an almost altruistic “Blitz” spirit in people and that’s good to see.

Just how far that can carry us is up for debate though.

Crime: sorted

Incoming: Great news from SAPS (The South African Police Service)!

After a weekend which will inevitably be filled with murder, rape, burglary and violence across South Africa, all will be sorted from 10am on Monday, when the police service hold their prayer day. Yippee!

According to the media release:

 The prayer will among other things focus on the following:

  • Safety for police officers
  • Reduction of crime in general
  • Reduction of gender-based violence

But will it work? Well, apparently, yes it will, because they tell us that:

A collective prayer has the power to protect and save police officers and preserve the nation. Police officials are responsible for protecting the community and our prayers can help save our police officials from harm.

It does make you wonder why, given the power that a collective prayer obviously possesses, no-one has come up with this idea before. Why waste time with community intervention, detective work and shooting miners when we could all come together, say a few words and kill all those birds with one stone, thus finding ourselves all leaving in a harmonious utopia?

Except, they have tried this before: last year:

The SAPS’s National Prayer Day is at the SAPS’s Tshwane Training Academy in Pretoria West from 10:00 to 12:30 on Tuesday, 13 August 2013. Employees of the South African Police Service are encouraged to attend this worthy event. It is through the divine intervention of the Almighty that we stay protected and reach our goal in the fight against crime.

Yep – the divine intervention of the Almighty will sort everything out, starting at 10am on the 13th August.
So, how did that work out for them, then? Well, here are a few lines from a synopsis of the crime stats released last week:

  • For the first time in 20 years the number of murders and the murder rate has increased for a second consecutive year.
  • This means that there were 809 more people murdered than in the previous year.
  • There has been an increase in all categories of robbery over the past year.
  • Vehicle hijacking increased by 12.3% to 11,221 incidents. This means that 31 motor vehicles were hijacked every day on average in 2013/14.

Oops. And, tragically:

Between 1 April 2013 and 31 March 2014 a total 68 police officers were killed in the line of duty.

So, one has to ask where this confidence in the power of the prayer “to protect and save police officers and preserve the nation” has come from?
Perhaps, like the big guy upstairs that their prayers are aimed at, it’s all just made up.

The media is cordially invited to attend the prayer service.

No thanks.