- The 14th annual general meeting of the Southern African Regional Police Chiefs Co-operation Organisation (SARPCCO) has opened with a call by the head of INTERPOL for enhanced police co-operation and information-sharing across and beyond Africa to combat the burgeoning threat of transnational crime.
The three-day meeting (2-4 September), assembling police chiefs from the 13 SARPCCO region countries - Angola, Botswana, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Lesotho, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe - heard INTERPOL Secretary General Ronald K. Noble emphasise that organised transnational crime outside the region represented a major security threat to Africa.
Calling on the assembled police chiefs to re-affirm and strengthen their commitment to joint cross-border initiatives designed to combat the constant threat posed by transnational crime, Secretary General Noble said that far from being concerned by borders, ‘criminals seek to exploit them. They thrive because of them.’
Mr Noble said that the use of INTERPOL’s key police tools and services in Southern Africa and across all its 187 member countries worldwide to identify and apprehend criminals was fundamental to fighting transnational crime by ‘empowering the men and women who fight crime in the field everyday with the appropriate tools’.
The police chiefs heard the example of an individual claiming to be a businessman who landed in Johannesburg during the football Confederations Cup in June holding a Pakistani passport. Upon control, that same document was revealed to be part of a batch of 2,000 blank passports stolen in Pakistan in December 2001. Almost eight years after the original theft and 5,000 miles away from the scene of the crime, INTERPOL’s tools helped identify an individual attempting to enter a country where a mass event was taking place, posing a potential threat to the wider public.
“This fraudulent entry into South Africa was prevented first by the sharing of information between Pakistan and South Africa, and second because the right people had access to the right information at the right time and at the right place. This was made possible by expanding the access to INTERPOL’s database of almost 19 million stolen and lost travel documents beyond the local INTERPOL National Central Bureau to border-control posts right here in South Africa,” said Mr Noble.
As part of efforts to bolster police capacity, both nationally and regionally, the meeting will also hear more about INTERPOL’s German-funded OASIS (Operational Assistance, Services and Infrastructure Support) programme. OASIS currently helps countries in Africa develop a global and integrated approach to fighting 21st century crime by developing operational capacities for policing in the region and enhancing the ability of INTERPOL member countries to tackle crime threats nationally, regionally and globally.
Several countries represented at the meeting will also see their INTERPOL I-24/7 secure police communications system upgraded and expanded beyond their National Central Bureau to allow for faster and greater exchange of operational information within Southern Africa, across the continent, and between police worldwide.
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