For the past few months CSI Africa has been hitting the dirt roads to help farmers up their game against farm attacks: The Vault is a centralised database in which the verified background details of farm workers can be stored and shared.
In the early hours of February 19, three intruders woke Sue Howarth and her partner Robin Lynn on their farm in Dullstroom. The intruders demanded money, but were left unsatisfied with the cash Lynn had in his wallet, his bank card and PIN number.
Howarth (64) and Lynn (66) were tied up and stabbed multiple times before being burnt with a blowtorch. After being suffocated with plastic bags and shot, their bodies were dumped on the R33 near the side of the road.
In many farming communities local, seasonal, and migrant workers remain largely undocumented, and are often only known on a first name basis. This in itself poses a problem, since it provides gangs and syndicates with the necessary cover to blend into farming communities.
The Vault creates an intelligence network to aid in the protection of farmers and their workers by means of a central database. A Vault record is opened for each farmworker and associated individuals in the community. Each Vault record contains a gamut of essential identification information, including photo identity, a digital copy of an individual’s identity document or passport, driver’s license, as well as finger prints, and other relevant details.
The information is then used to run speedy background checks on each worker to verify identity, and to determine the presence of a criminal record.
For the farmers and their workers, this makes it easier to identify those who belong in the community, and those who do not.
Mere days before Parliament’s debate on farm attacks, two men waited for Nicky Haddad on the farm Howie, near the Peka Bridge border post. While Haddad parked his car around 2pm on a Sunday, the two attackers struck, shooting him in the left arm and the right leg. He survived. His attackers fled on foot.
The system’s real benefit is that information can be shared across a farming community distributed over a wide geographical area, effectively creating an intelligence network spread over hundreds or thousands of square kilometres.
Where the identities of attackers are known, the system can be used to instantly provide all relevant information to the police. The system can also be used to eliminate members of the immediate farming community as possible suspects in cases where the attackers remain unidentified, saving valuable investigative time and improving the chances of successful arrests.
The Vault, a part of the myScreening package, is available as a desktop application. It uses an internet connection to run the background checks and share information. Where an internet connection is not available, the program queues requests until an internet connection becomes available for those requests to be processed.
Information systems similar to The Vault have long since been used to help governments and various organisations to protect its citizens and stakeholders. It’s an effective measure which has been proven time and again, and one which will help close the net around those who are responsible for violent crimes against farming communities.