MOBESE (Mobil Elektronik Sistem Entegrasyonu in Turkish) is a sophisticated technological instrument that upgrades traditional CCTV to an all-encompassing citywide security network, including license plate number recognition.
Talking about inner-city safety, 12 months ago I argued in this newspaper that installing 500 new security cameras -- some equipped with the abovementioned license number tracking technology -- would most definitely help make Ankara an even better place to live in, not just with regards to pedestrian safety but also in connection with monitoring any suspicious vehicle movements in more general terms (“Turkey's capital Ankara invests in inner-city safety,” Aug. 28, 2010). Yet terrorism continues to show its ugly face and is not limited to any particular city or region.
Facts first: MOBESE is normally installed by means of fiber-optic cabling. Those cables can easily be laid where existing cables -- think electricity supply -- are already in place. We are talking about an underground network of cables, not above ground. Once the cables are laid, poles are erected at important road and street intersections or anywhere else for that matter (outside banks, government buildings, schools, train stations and housing complexes, too) where road and citizens' safety and business security matters are an issue. Then cameras are installed on the poles and the images recorded by these cameras are transmitted to a local security monitoring center.
There are immense costs involved, correct. In one recent installation effort (30 cameras, 20 kilometers of cables) currently under way in Didim, close to İzmir on Turkey's southern Aegean coast, it was revealed that each complete camera system including a share of the cost of laying the cables and erecting the poles plus running costs came to a figure of TL 20,000.
Now let us put MOBESE into perspective. It may greatly help to reduce crime in more general terms, facilitate the tracking and fining of traffic rule violators and make citizens feel safe on the streets. At the same time it allows the monitoring of suspicious vehicle movements and the tracking of all cars and vans that are already within city limits. Above all else, it helps identify suspicious vehicles upon entering a city's boundaries.
This is where MOBESE could well become most definitely a key tool to prevent future attacks. Assuming that individual transport will remain the preferred method for a would-be terrorist to get from A to B -- knowing, of course, about existing 24/7 CCTV systems installed at train and underground stations, taxi ranks, shopping malls, etc. -- being able to track a car by recognizing its license plates could prove of vital importance. If the system coordinates incoming data fast enough, any stolen car, any fake license plate or any not-as-yet officially re-registered secondhand car (as is assumed was used in this week's deplorable attack in Ankara) would be spotted straight away. This in turn depends on car dealers and insurance companies cooperating more closely with local law enforcement authorities.
Some argue MOBESE is simply a tool to keep would-be bank robbers from going about their job, help catch traffic violators and ideally prevent traffic violations in the first place. Others, including myself, add its anti-terrorism dimension and helpful-ness. The training of those monitoring local security centers is vital, too. They need to learn how to think with a would-be attacker's mind: Which bank, which public building, which transport facility is a target? How to get there? How to deposit the explosive device?
MOBESE is not a cure-all, but if used just that bit more efficiently it can become vital in helping to spot potential terrorists before they commit their crime.
On the one hand, terrorists want to create chaos leading to anarchy and overreactions by the state they attack in the first place. On the other, being captured on camera is nothing law-abiding citizens should be afraid of. Maybe one day in the not-so-distant future our children can switch them all off again -- unfortunately, not as yet though.