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NEWS > 05 July 2007

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Zambia: On The Prowl
They prowl the empty streets at night…waiting… in fast cars and on foot…living with crime and violence…

For anyone growing up around the 70’s in southern Africa, they would surely have listened to Squad Cars on Springbok Radio on a Friday evening, which started with the above quote. But today in Zambia, we have them prowling the streets and the shopping centres, day and night, in white Corollas and on foot, and they are not crime busters, but rather the perpetrators of crimes, ready to pounce on unsuspecting law-abiding citizens. And they all have a different modus op... Read more

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The Age - Melbourne,Victoria,A
05 July 2007
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State cop breached UK plot pro

A state police officer has illegally tried to access information about the investigation into the UK car bomb attacks, Australian Federal Police say.

AFP Commissioner Mick Keelty revealed the attempted security breach on Thursday while explaining potential problems with a proposed national crime database.

Mr Keelty said information gleaned during some AFP investigations could not be shared with other police forces and agencies, and the database could create privacy and national security concerns.

"I'm not saying we've got a big corruption problem," he said in Canberra at a parliamentary inquiry into the future impact of organised crime.

"But I can tell you, giving evidence before this committee, that the deputy and I have seen a downloading of some data in the last 24 hours of the operation that we are doing with the Queensland police - by somebody not authorised to receive it, from another police force in the country."

"So it does happen, it's a real issue for us.

"And so there is a need to get the balance between what people need to know, in order to carry out their function (and what they don't need to know)."

A tip-off from British police led to the arrest of Indian national Mohammed Haneef, a registrar at the Gold Coast Hospital, in connection with foiled bomb attacks in London and Glasgow.

Dr Haneef was arrested on Monday night at Brisbane International Airport and, with authorities obtaining a court order for his detention on Tuesday, can be held without charge until Thursday night.

A senior Scotland Yard counter-terrorism investigator has arrived in Brisbane to question Dr Haneef, whose family maintains he is innocent.

The parliamentary committee quizzed Mr Keelty on the possibility of a national police database following state police complaints that their investigations were being hampered by their inability to quickly access information from other jurisdictions.

"In terms of the need for a totally separate system ... we would say there is sufficient access at the moment," Mr Keelty said.

The attorney-general's department also poured cold water on the plan, and CrimTrac CEO Ben McDevitt said a system to be rolled out next year would improve information-sharing arrangements.

The Police Federation of Australia, which represents 50,000 officers, is backing the plan for a national database.

The federation's Mark Burgess told the inquiry police also wanted a national automatic number plate recognition system - similar to the one Britain had used in the recent foiled car bomb plot.

He gave the example of a Western Australian police officer injured while trying to arrest a man for stealing petrol in February 2006.

The thief, William Watkins, was wanted for a double murder in Melbourne, but the information did not come up when the officer entered his details and registration into the WA police database.

Had the number plate system existed, Watkins - who was killed after seriously wounding the officer - would probably not have made it out of Victoria without capture and would certainly not have been able to drive the 5,500km in three days to Western Australia, Mr Burgess said.

A number plate recognition system similar to those operating in the UK and parts of the United States had "the potential to revolutionise policing across Australia, with huge benefits for crime prevention, reduction and investigation as well as for national security and border protection activities".

Labor senator Chris Hayes said he understood police were able to track vehicles used in the recent London and Glasgow bomb plots using their integrated vehicle registration identification system.

Mr Keelty said Australian authorities were "working towards" such a system.

The government had allocated $2 million to CrimTrac to come up with a model that would integrate the different systems currently in operation across Australian jurisdictions.

"In answering that question, though, I wouldn't want you to think ... that that was the solution to what the Brits were doing last week," he said.

"There's a lot of other complex issues I can't talk about here."

Mr Keelty said the effectiveness of current police database depended on the information entered into them and whether users searched correctly.

"If somebody is wanted for offences or a missing persons there are flags on data systems that are available for all jurisdictions," he said.

"The system is only as good as the users, really."

He said allowing only people with certain authorisation to access certain information reduced the opportunity for corruption.

Police had "got themselves in trouble" in some infamous cases by accessing data inappropriately or even selling it, he said.


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