Cele: Provinces with most Covid infections ‘almost mirror’ arrests for lockdown violations

Minister of Police Bheki Cele.

Minister Bheki Cele has briefed the nation on crimes that have occurred during the pandemic, and the lockdown has apparently been bad for business for robbers and murderers too.

Police Minister Bheki Cele said on Friday there was a link between the regions with the highest number of arrests and the regions with the highest infection rates.

“Provinces with the highest number of arrests for contravention of the lockdown regulations almost mirror the provincial infection rates with the Western Cape in the lead, followed by Eastern Cape, Kwa-Zulu Natal and Gauteng.”

Cele was speaking during an update on the levels of compliance and adherence to the Covid-19 lockdown regulations in the country under Level 4.

According to Cele, while there has been an increase in the number of reports filed, cases registered and arrests made, the minister said this could be explained away by the increase in movement of people as allowed by the relaxed regulations of Level 4.

“At one point towards the end of April when we were still on Level 5, we had about 107,000 cases opened with 118,000 people charged for contravention of the lockdown regulations. In just over a month, this number has more than doubled and is almost at 230,000 for contraventions,” said the minister.

Liquor related offences, cigarette-related offences, illegal gatherings, failures to remain within one’s place of residence, cross border and inter-provincial movement outside of the regulated date and without the necessary documentation, transport-related offences and fraudulent or no permits are among the most popular reasons why people were arrested.

However, the minister noted that the number of illegal gatherings reported and busted had gone down when compared with Level 5.

“The arrested persons were either issued with fines or released with a warning, while some are out on bail and those cases relating to more serious offences are before the respective courts in the country.”

Organised crime syndicates had taken advantage of the lockdown – especially on the ban of alcohol and cigarettes – by expanding their illegal trade into illicit and counterfeit alcohol and cigarette sales.

“We have also observed an increase in smuggling of contraband (liquor and tobacco) between South Africa’s land borders with Botswana, eSwatini, Lesotho, Mozambique and Zimbabwe, as well as the sale of these products in the black market.”

“Our lockdown partners the SANDF have disrupted some of these illegal operations mainly along South Africa’s borders with Mozambique and Zimbabwe; and confiscated contraband including alcohol and cigarettes worth about R1.07 million in March and R1.6 million in April.”

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Contrary to the reported dramatic decline in serious and violent crime in April, the police had noted slight increases in some crime categories.

This included crimes such as domestic violence, along with trio crimes, which included house and business robberies as well as hijackings.

“Again this time around, we have compared crime since the lockdown to crime over the same period in 2019.

“The reasons behind the increase or decrease in crime is yet to be determined and confirmed by our crime analysts. However, we do believe that the slight increase is due to the relaxation of the lockdown restrictions which has seen the increased movement of people and traffic on the road, as more companies have gone back to business again.”

Contact crime stats for 27 March – 19 May 2020 according to Police Minister Bheki Cele | Image: Screenshot

Trio crime stats for 27 March – 19 May 2020 according to Police Minister Bheki Cele | Image: Screenshot

Hijackings saw a spike according to the minister, and Gauteng, the Western Cape, KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape were leading in this regard as they were with arrests and infection rates.

Although the lockdown seems to have boosted contraband business for organised crime syndicates and emboldened hijackers, other criminal operations suffered. Cash-in-transit robberies were among those adversely affected.

“When we compare incidents of cash-in-transit robberies during the lockdown to the same period on 2019, the number has dropped remarkably from 26 to only four incidents.”

Thanks to the limited mobility of people and the increase in health roadblocks, law enforcement managed to make two major drug busts this past week alone.

“Police in Eastern Cape on Wednesday confiscated drugs (Mandrax and dagga) worth an estimated value of about R4 million during a routine inspection at a Health Checkpoint outside Middelburg in the Eastern Cape. Two suspects, both foreign nationals, were arrested,” said Cele.

“On Monday 18 May, members of the Hawks intercepted a truck which was en route to Cape Town and found in a container cocaine worth over R30.4 million. A 37-year-old suspect was arrested.”

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