While answering questions at a press briefing on Stats SA’s Victims of Crime Survey, Statistician-General Pali Lehohla admitted that South Africans had generally lost faith in the SA Police Service’s ability to combat and solve crimes.
Most crimes in South Africa have been going under-reported.
He said that there had been an alarming increase in people no longer reporting crimes to the police, “because the public said the police cannot do anything about it”, which he admitted was an indictment on the service.
“That is, I think, a very serious indictment that people have lost hope that the police can do something about things.”
He said there was a related perception that the visibility of police had also gone down.
He added, though, that the crime rate in any case appeared to be going down (“the absolute number of crimes has actually declined”), even though at least “a million households experienced one or the other form of crime”.
South Africans had continued to invest in private security solutions, he said.
“Last time we checked, police budgets were R30 billion, and the public was using about R45 billion to protect themselves.”
He questioned whether spending a combined R75 billion “for South Africans to feel safe” in this way was efficient. He said the system as a whole needed to be re-examined and balanced against competing priorities in the country, such as paying for education and healthcare.
Another overwhelming trend was that the majority of South Africans tend to believe the courts are too lenient on offenders. The Western Cape’s population was least impressed with the judiciary in this respect.
Earlier at the press conference, Stats SA had revealed that, in their view, the biggest driver of crime in South Africa was the illegal drugs industry.
Lehohla lamented the fact that the police had never had stable or consistent leadership since the late 1990s, which made data collection more difficult, but since 2003 they had been looking at households to compile more reliable data.
However, reliance on the police was difficult and the process “has been excruciatingly slow”.