South Africa is a criminal country. You cannot deny that – not after the latest crime statistics showed that, in the past year, there were two million crimes reported to police. That’s one crime for every 27 people.
There was a 6.9% increase in the number of murders – 20 336 people died in the past 12 months – and an 8.2% increase in reports of sexual assaults. More than 40 000 people were sexually assaulted in the period. In reality, that figure is much higher, because many rape victims do not go to the police.
Even Police Minister Bheki Cele has admitted that the forces of law and order have “dropped the ball” when it comes to keeping our people safe and secure. He does allude to the fact that there are now 11 000 less police officers than there were when he stepped down as police commissioner in 2011 … but that does not provide a good enough explanation for why crime is out of control.
Very few South Africans have confidence in the police. Corruption in the ranks of the service is rife, as is incompetence and, in many instances, a couldn’t-careless attitude. This means that many crimes which are reported have no consequences in reality – no arrests, no trials, no convictions. Too many of those employed by the police are there simply to collect a pay cheque.
What this means is that people, seeing the slow collapse of justice all around them, become less inclined to stick to the straight and narrow themselves or to rebuke or report others they see doing crime. The sad reality is that crime begets crime.
Increasing police service numbers and resources are important. However, what is badly needed is a thorough overhaul of the whole ethos of policing where the mantra is: citizens come first.