There is a certain irony to the thought that today it is the law abiding citizens who are forced to live behind bars, fences, security lights and locked doors. But sometimes even all these devices are not enough. Greg Melvill-Smith, "In Touch" presenter, takes a closer look at some of the defense systems available, the first one being a stun gun.
The stun gun has been around for quite some time, but a new dimension has been added - distance. Now you don't have to wait for the attacker to get close to you. You can incapacitate him from a distance, and the beauty is, once you have shot the probes, you can still use the gun gun up to nine times.
Greg talks to Joe Kurowski, Sales Executive at Spy Shop about the "Taser" stun gun. "Taser is a stun gun, as well as a compressed airgun. It is very easy to use; an air cartridge is clipped onto the front of the stun gun and it is ready to be used. When activated, it shoots out two grappling hooks which latch nto the clothing or anywhere on the attacker's body. A T-wave signal is released which paralyses the whole body," says Joe.
The Taser is not lethal and certainly is a better option than a gun, but is it legal? Greg talks to Vinodh Jaichand, National Director at Lawyers for Human Rights to find out when self defense is actually considered to be within the limits of the law. "Only in the exceptional circumstances will the right to self, or private, defense be permissible under our law," says Vinodh. "The conditions under the attack must meet the following pre-requirements. Firstly, there must be an unlawful attack on a legal entity in the second place, and thirdly the attack must have been commenced or is imminent."
Of course the Taser will not be of much help when somebody wants to hijack your car. For that kind of problem we have a solution that is just a little bit more extreme - A WALL OF FIRE! Greg talks to Charl Fourie, Proprieter/Inventor at Citation about this radical form of defense. "If someone points a gun at me and asks for my car, I will put my hands up to show my co-operation," says Charl. "At that point I will step onto the foot control and two walls of fire will shoot out from each side of the car, incapacitating the hijacker. On the dashboard there is a key switch that can be turned or a coded keypad that will actually arm your system. When the foot control is pressed, liquid gas is released over a spark of 40,000 Volts which instantaneously ignite the gas, causing the walls of fire to shoot out. The fire will last for as long as one presses the foot control down. This will cause absolutely no damage to the car if it is used for less than 1 minute. Should the fire burn for more than one minute, however, the heat, and not the flames, will actually cause damage to the paintwork on the vehicle."
The question is, how legal is this form of self defense? Greg talks to David Walkley, Superintendent at the South African Police Service to find out more about this. "From a legal perspective, from the basis of the evidence; where a life was threatened; where property would have been stolen - even if a life was not directly threatened - under these circumstances, the actions would then be justified," says David.
Fighting fire with fire seems to be a pretty common concept in South Africa, but here is a different option. Greg investigates. "Whoever said there is no smoke without fire, obviously hasn't heard of a new crime deterrent, this time for indoor use, called the Smoke Cloak," says Greg. He demonstrates what would happen to a burglar prowling around inside an office or home. He sneaks into an office and leans over the counter to scan the desk below. Immediately smoke billows out from seemingly nowhere. Greg, lost within a cloud of smoke, says: "Now, if I were a burglar, this is exactly what would happen!"
Greg talks to Paul Dards about the Smoke Cloak. "Smoke Cloak is a product that stops crime," says Paul. "Basically it is a product that responded to my need. I had an electronics business that was well fortified. It had grills and bars protecting it and despite this I was attacked eight times in seven months. No matter what I did, the burglars just kept coming back. The police told me you can't stop them. The best you can do is to slow them down. The idea of the product is to put a barrier between the burglar and what you want to protect. If you can't see, you can't steal."
There is no smell or residue and the manufacturer claims it is entirely safe around computers and more important, around people. "If it is safe around people, what stops the burglar from just hanging around until the smoke clears?" Greg wants to know from Paul.
"The first thing a burglar does when he gets into a building is to make sure he can get away quickly. Our Smoke Cloak stops him getting away quickly. In fact, if he lingers too long, he may never get away as the armed response people will get him before he can get away," replies Paul.
"How exactly does the Smoke Cloak work?", Greg asks Malcolm Thomas, MD of Transaction Control 2Technologies. "Glycol fluid is pumped over a heated aluminum block which is fully controlled and that control circuitry which basically interfaces with the alarm system and one of the things it does is to connect up to a smoke density monitoring device to ensure that a certain smoke density is maintained. If somebody tries to get away before the alarm is being reset, this device instructs the system, via the interface, to keep blowing smoke," says Malcolm.
With the rising tide of crime sweeping not just South Africa, but in fact many developing countries, extreme measures such as the fire walls shooting from one's vehicle or the Smoke Cloak machine, are affording the law abiding citizen some degree of protection.
"But the root of the problem is social," says Greg, sitting in Citation's BMW that is equipped with the fire burning device, "and the most effective weapon against crime is an economy where crime is the exception and not the rule, and where extreme measures like these are no longer necessary." He steps onto the foot control unit and the car disappears in a wall of fire.
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