Crime in SA still a challenge

The South African Police Services have
notched up many successes in the
fight against crime.
(Image: South African Police Services)

Janine Erasmus

Police statistics for the period April 2007- March 2008 showed a decrease across the board in contact crime, but an increase in home and business robberies. Minister of Safety and Security Charles Nqakula released the figures on 30 June 2008 at a media briefing.

He indicated that although the most recent statistics did show a continuation of the steady decline in crime levels achieved over the past five years, government still considers them to be unacceptably high and was continually striving to address the issue with a number of strategies.

Contact crime was down by 6.4%, said Nqakula, in all categories. These are common robbery, rape, attempted murder, robbery with aggravating circumstances, common assault, murder, assault with grievous bodily harm, and indecent assault. Murder, in fact, is at its lowest levels since 2003.

“The decrease in murder is connected to the decrease in aggravated robbery, which is often accompanied by bloodshed as firearms are used in the commission of such crimes,” said Nqakula.

Although the 2007/2008 figure falls somewhat short of the target of 7-10% reduction in contact crime set by the police back in 2004, such crime has decreased annually by an average of 7.0% since then. Other crime categories that recorded decreases include motor vehicle theft, which fell by 7%, and residential burglary which decreased by 4.7%.

However, said the minister, business and home robberies were still increasing, as were car and truck hijackings. Nqakula partly attributed the increase in hijackings to organised crime, explaining that criminals sought vehicles for getaways and to use as battering rams in cash-in-transit incidents. Cash-in-transit attacks, meanwhile, showed a significant decrease of 15.4 %.

Organised crime and criminal gangs are a particular focus of the police, said the minister, as they wreak havoc against society although comparatively speaking, they make up a small percentage of crime overall. “The police identified and investigated during the period under review 145 organised crime groups. 131 syndicate leaders and 375 syndicate members were arrested.”

Taking action against crime

The minister cited prevailing socio-economic conditions as a major contributing factor to crime, saying that people often committed crimes out of need, while criminals bought the silence of residents in their communities.

Nqakula noted that the co-operation of these communities was crucial if the police were to win the fight against crime. He encouraged communities to continue to work with the police. “It is our experience that in areas where communities are working together with the police, crime levels there have been reduced, quite drastically in some respects.”

The minister explained that the police force had been bolstered in areas where it was most needed. “One of the important interventions that government made was the redeployment of more and better resources to the various police stations in the country where crime fighting actually happens,’ said Nqakula, adding that over 14 000 police members were deployed to 606 stations around the country.

“Some of the deployees were experienced police managers and commanders who served, previously, at the national and area levels of the South African Police Service. Some of the stations received allocations of reservists who are a force-multiplier to the police. “

Nqakula also praised business for its involvement, and said that organisations such as Business Against Crime were crucial to the cause as they contribute human and material resources to combat crime.

Other interventions singled out include 16 Days of Activism Campaign for No Violence Against Women and Children, as well as the related Operation Basadi campaign which follows up unresolved cases of abuse of women, and Operation Isondlo which identifies and punishes fathers who default on their children’s maintenance.

The complete report on crime statistics for 2007/2008 can be downloaded from the Institute for Security Studies or the South African Police Services websites.

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