South Africa 25.10.2017 05:00 am

Meet the ugly face of crime

Police Minister Fikile Mbalula speaks at the Tshwane Training Academy during the re-launch of the SAPS Tactical Response and Tracking Teams, 29 September 2017, Pretoria. Picture: Jacques Nelles

Police Minister Fikile Mbalula speaks at the Tshwane Training Academy during the re-launch of the SAPS Tactical Response and Tracking Teams, 29 September 2017, Pretoria. Picture: Jacques Nelles

Police minister said that he was aware that crime involves high emotions and that the statistics should not be seen just as pure numbers.

Despite a slight drop in the number of recorded sexual offences in the past year, South Africans are still under siege from crime – in their homes, in their businesses, where they hang out and on the roads.

Murders are at their highest level in 10 years, up 1.8% at 19 016. That means 52 people are murdered every day.

Hijackings were up by 14.5%. to 16 717, or 46 a day, while aggravated robberies were up 6.3% to 140 956, or 386 a day.

And, a despairing Police Minister Fikile Mbalula said he was not impressed with the 1.8% drop in crime.

“I do not feel it, and our people do not feel it and they are correct. We have a drop in sexual violence, but we have more and more pictures of our women going missing. People must feel the drop in crime where they live. We have no time to waste time – we are still on the road towards safe communities.”

Speaking at the release of the 2016/2017 crime statistics in parliament yesterday, Mbalula said the figures were more than just mere numbers. He cautioned that he was aware that crime involves high emotions and that the statistics should not be seen just as pure numbers.

“Behind the numbers are real feelings, real lives, real hurt, real harm, real losses, deaths, feelings of unsafety – these statistics represent the memory of that gruesome rape or murder, the fearful home invasion and loss of property.

These numbers have consistently said no community can claim they live in safety and feel safe in South Africa,” said Mbalula.

Nearly 2.1 million serious crimes were recorded in the 2016/2017 financial year, of which 1 738 980 were community-reported serious crimes.

Mbalula said: “Our people are losing their children to heinous crimes, drug gangs infighting for turf wars, our people have no-go areas due to criminality and violence that visits such areas. We must ask: have we accepted to live side by side with violent criminals in our cities where car jackings and home invasions are a common phenomenon?”

He said although crime generally was down, “we have a big problem where violent crime is going up and there is no time to hide this.

“Our police are working under tremendous situations but are not led properly by management.”

Director of strategic partnerships and co-founder of Sonke Gender Justice Bafana Khumalo argued that the sexual offences statistics were inaccurate.

“We can’t be simply proud that the numbers are going down because they don’t reflect reality.”

South African Banking Risk Information Centre CEO Kalyani Pillay said police and cash-intransit companies are working closely together to put various measures in place to prevent further attacks, including investing significantly in the safety of their vehicles.

Despite implementing these measures, she said, cash-in-transit armoured vehicles are still violently attacked by large groups of between 15 and 20 criminals, all heavily armed with automatic rifles.

SA’s danger levels rising

South Africans are less safe and more likely to be attacked and killed because President Jacob Zuma does not want a strong, professional SA Police Service with competent leaders.

That’s the damning indictment from the Institute for Security Studies’ Gareth Newham after the release of the crime statistics yesterday.

“The only two categories we think are important to follow, because they are the most reliable, are murder and aggravated robbery,” he said.

“We know from the Victims of Crime Survey (VCS) conducted by Statistics SA that for murder, more than 90% of cases are reported and in the cases of robbery reportage is also as high, so those numbers are more accurate.”

Newham said the other figures, such as for assault and sexual assault, were very unreliable.

“We know from VCS that more and more victims of these crimes do not report them to the police, so the most likely reason there’s been a reduction in those types of crimes is not because there’s been an actual reduction in violence, there’s just been fewer people reporting them.”

This, he added, was directly linked to declining levels of trust in the police. Richard Phillips, an expert in cash management and logistics, said cash-related crime had again increased.

“With a record high of 20 680 armed robberies against business recorded in the latest crime statistics, South Africa is experiencing 57 attacks per day,” he said.

Roleplayers in the cash-in-transit industry were talking to each other, but the lack of intelligence was a problem.

“In the last 12 months, we’ve seen more than 300% increase in bombing attacks against retailers with cash devices,” Phillips said.

Institute of Race Relations’ crime analyst Kerwin Lebone, who has tracked crime and violence statistics for more than 15 years, said: “The police are overwhelmed and failing to hold back the criminal onslaught directed at citizens.”

Police are disempowered, can’t stem crime wave – opposition

Chronic undertraining, under-resourcing and underequipping of the police, plus the ongoing crisis in police intelligence, is behind the rise in violent and organised crime in SA, Democratic Alliance shadow minister of police Zakhele Mbhele says.

The Economic Freedom Fighters criticised the crime statistics report for relying on cases reported to the police stations which, it said, is only a limited assessment and not the true picture of crime in South Africa.

EFF spokesperson Mbuyiseni Ndlozi said Minister of Police Fikile Mbalula’s statement there had been a reduction in some crimes did not reflect the Saps’ ability to combat crime because the majority of people felt the police’s responses were ineffective.

“The crimes of sexual assault, in particular against children, are underrepresented by these statistics for the obvious reason that many victims do not report to the police,” he said.

“In essence, the statistics that matter, if we are to restore public confidence and trust in our police, are those of resolving reported crimes.

“Our police are among the most unprofessional, inefficient and unreliable public servants, with little ability to investigate and combat crimes.”

Mbhele also blamed poor leadership, professionalism and weak accountability for police being unable to get a grip on crime.

But the ruling party saw it differently, attributing the 1.8% general decline in crime over the past 10 years to the ANC government’s crime-fighting efforts.

ANC caucus spokesperson Nonceba Mhlauli said the party was optimistic because of the 4% drop in rapes reported in 2016-17, compared with the previous year; the decline in contact crime by 3.3% and the 6.7% drop in assault with the intent to cause grievous bodily harm.

But the murder rate increase of 1.8% and of 0.4% for attempted murders, plus the increase in aggravated robbery and carjacking, indicated society was becoming increasingly unsafe, Mhlauli said.

 

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