Political solutions are needed to deal with violent community protests as opposed to the deployment of police officers, according to the Institute for Security Studies (ISS). The institute was responding to the crime statistics released by the police yesterday.
With regards to violent demonstrations, the statistics indicated that while there had been a reduction in peaceful demonstrations, there was an upward trend as far as violent protests are concerned.
Limpopo led the provinces with the most incidents of arson and malicious damage to property, which were the result of violent community protests. The main protest action in the province was in the troubled area of Vuwani, where nearly 30 schools were either torched or damaged.
Speaking to Saturday Citizen yesterday, senior researcher at the ISS Johan Burger said protests over lack of service delivery and university fees were beyond the control of police officers. “Such demonstrations take away a lot of police resources into crowd control from crimefighting,” said Burger.
“The time has come for government to realise and accept that it can no longer ignore complaints raised by its residents. [It must] do a lot more and that will be a huge relief to the police.”
Reacting to the crime statistics, particularly around murder and robbery incidents, Burger said a big part of the challenges faced by police officers had been crime intelligence which, according to him, had been deteriorating for some time, dating back to the period when Richard Mdluli, the former head of Police Crime Intelligence, was in charge.
“That Mdluli matter led to a complete collapse in the command structure and, as a result, we have seen a lack of intelligence in terms of focusing on crime syndicates,” he said.
Burger welcomed yesterday’s crime figures, saying that, for the first time in many years, he sensed complete honesty in the way the police had submitted the stats to parliament, as opposed to just highlighting reports.
“The bad news, though, is that violent crimes continue to be on the upward trend and this is the fourth year in a row that murder incidents have increased,” Burger said. Police union Popcru said the latest crime statistics reflected a societal problem.
“Police are often put to the front and usually take the blame for the increase in criminal activities, while consideration is not fully made regarding the role we need to collectively play with communities, business and government departments, among others, in taking necessary measures to prevent crime.”