This article first appeared in The Mercury Monday 19th Septmeber 2011, written by ‘Stop Crime, Stay Hello’
At last we have some good news on the crime front. The recently released statistics reveal that murder has dropped by 53% in 15 years, house robberies are down by 10% in the past year alone and hijackings have decreased by a massive 23%. Some categories are up, but for the most part, these statistics are very encouraging.
Having celebrated – and celebrate we should – the question we must ask is how do we ensure that these decreases in crime are sustained? What are the obstacles to further successes in the future?
One of the biggest obstacles is the misconception that decreases in crime levels are simply due to the work of the police. This misconception is dangerous because it negates or rather nullifies the critical role that civil society – you and I – must play in the ‘fight against crime.’
Civil society’s role is twofold. On the one hand we must become an extension of the South African Police Force. This means that we must obey the law and report crime when we see it. The fashionable expression for this is that we must become ‘the eyes and ears of the police’.
On the other hand, we must become an extension of the Department of Social Development; helping to improve the quality of life and well-being of others and guiding those in our social, work or family sphere away from crime and towards lawfulness.
A good illustration of the respective roles of the police and Social Development concerns the issue of murder. Well over 80% of murder is committed between people who know each other personally. This means that, 8 times out of 10, murders takes place in homes, workplaces and social settings. They are often fuelled by alcohol and/or drugs. The police aren’t in our home, our factories or our local bars. We are. We need to take greater responsibility for the social issues that are so often leading to violent crime.
My point here is certainly not to knock the work of our police. I am the first to advocate that we need to support our heroes and heroines in blue far more than we do. My point is that there is more to defeating crime than policing. If we are to see further significant reductions in crime – reductions that we still desperately need – we must understand our role beyond sitting on the sidelines cheering the cops on. We must step up to the plate.
The importance of this cannot be overstated. In South Africa we have approximately 200 000 police but only around 12 000 social workers. This means that there is more capacity to fight crime than to prevent it from happening in the first place.
This is where we can help. With this few social workers, community groups, charities, faith based organisations, companies and individuals need to play a bigger role in uplifting communities and improving people’s lives. This is particularly needed amongst vulnerable young people in order to divert them from a life of crime.
So what have you and I done to contribute to these decreases in crime levels, or rather, what more can we be doing in order that these levels decrease still further?
Over the years, we South Africans have become gatvol with crime. This has prompted us to form various civil society groups; anti-crime campaigns, Community Police Forums, neighbourhood watches, private security companies, and other nongovernmental initiatives.
These organizations have their roots in our communities. They are made up of ordinary men and women concerned for the wellbeing and safety of their families and homes. These men and women are often where the police aren’t. They are our neighbours, our colleagues, our friends and our family members. They are you and I.
The correlation between significant drops in crime and significant increases in public awareness and community initiatives of this nature cannot be ignored. In fact, civil society must be seen as the secret weapon in the creation of a safe and peaceful South Africa.
Flipside tip of the week:
We will see further significant decreases in crime levels when we, as civil society, take joint responsibility with the police for crime. We can do this in a number of ways; by becoming an active participant in our local Community Policing Forum (CPF), by committing to obeying the law ourselves (including the laws of the road) and by becoming the eyes and ears of the police, reporting all crime to 10111.
In addition to this, we must work to uplift people and guide them into lawful lives. This can be done by mentoring a young person, talking with staff about the benefits of lawfulness and helping people to break free of addictions to drugs and alcohol. Such actions have a profound social impact and help to create an environment in which peace and safety can flourish.
Below is an extract from the remarks recorded from the Minister of Police, E.N. Mthethwa, MP on the occasion of the release of the National Crime Statistics on the 8 Sep 2011.
Click here to read the SA Crime Report 2010/2011
08 September 2011
2011 remains “A Year of Action: Ensuring That All People In South Africa Are, and Feel Safe.”
The current government has identified five key priorities and amongst them, is the issue of fighting crime and fighting the causes of crime.
In brief, our programme in this period consists of achieving better policing, a better-trained and efficient criminal justice system, involvement of society in the fight against crime, and a campaign to refurbish the moral fibre of the South African society.
In dealing with issues of crime, the government proceeds from a premise that: a rising quality of life also means improvement in the safety and security of citizens in their homes and environs where they live, work and engage in extramural activity.
The battle against crime cannot be separated from the war on want. In the main, incidents of contact crime such as murder, grievous bodily harm and rape occur among acquaintances in poor communities where living and entertainment environments do not allow for decent family and social life.
The release of the South African Police Service (SAPS) crime statistics for the period 1st April 2010 to 31 March 2011 cannot be equated to an occasion about statistics, numerics and graphs; rather as a reflection on the path we have traversed in the past twelve months.
This occasion affords us to gauge whether the strategies and systems we put in place are yielding the desired positive results. The fundamental aim of our government is therefore to build a society where people will enjoy a dignified, improving quality of life and freedom. However crime stands in direct opposite of achieving this goal.
Inevitably, freedom does not create itself. Crime does not simply disappear; we must create conditions that will make crime disappear. This requires a concerted, united action by all South Africans.
The crime statistics for 2010/11 that are being released here today clearly show that we are making progress in some areas, there are instance where we are reaching stability and there are types of crimes which are still a challenge. To this end, it is important to emphasize that our crime statistics have been audited.
We also engaged a number of different role-players to compare their experiences with regard to certain crime types. We have noted that there is convergence on our crime statistics with the stakeholders, in this field be they business, tracking and insurance.
Decrease in Contact Crime (Crimes against the person)
Contact crime is an area of crime which by its nature leads to serious feelings of fears of insecurity because it is this form of crime with which violence is normally associated. This contact crime also accounts for roughly one third of all crimes.
We are therefore encouraged to see that, for the 2010/11 financial year, contact crime generally decreased by 6,9% and that all provinces with the exception of North West and Western Cape, showed a decline in this form of crime. In fact all seven categories of contact crime witnessed a decline (this refers to murder, attempted murder, sexual offenses, assault Grievous Bodily Harm, assault common, aggravated robbery and common robbery).
Decrease in Trio Crimes
Linked to the decrease in contact crime are the successes we achieved with regard to the trio crimes (that is house robberies, business robberies and vehicles hijacking) and we note in a positive light the 10,7% decrease in trio crimes.
Decrease in Murder
Murder is one of the most reliable form of crime statistics and during 2010/11 the figure has dropped below the 16 000 figure; with 15 940 cases being recorded. We are encouraged to see the murder ratio decreasing by 6,5%.
It is perhaps worth mentioning that during the 1994/95 period our murder ratio as a country stood at 27 000. We further recognize that dealing with this sort of crime is not only dependent on police but it is a societal challenge which requires a coordinated effort. These continuous reductions in murder indicate that government is succeeding in its efforts.
Decrease in Attempted Murder
During the 2009/10 financial year as we reported, attempted murder decreased by 6,1% and we are pleased to see a further improvement in this category. During the 2010/11 financial year, we have witnessed a 12,2% decrease in this category.
Decrease in Sexual Offences
One area that still requires our attention is that of sexual offenses. While we are happy that this category generally has declined over the last two years, were remain concerned about the number of rapes that occur in the country.
During the fiscal under review, the sexual offences ratio decreased by 3,1%. The number of reported cases of rape still remains unacceptably high; especially in lieu of the fact that such crimes have a lifetime negative on victims. In addition we need to ensure that victims of such crimes feel safe.
Rape increased from 55 097 to 56 272 cases and we cannot seriously say we are winning the war against rape. We have however taken various steps in addressing this scourge.
The re-introduction of the Family Violence, Child Protection and Sexual Offences units throughout the country over the last financial year provides us with the platform on which to ensure crimes against women and children are adequately addressed by the police.
But the reality is that rape, based on international trends, is often under-reported but as we continue to improve our Criminal Justice System, we could see more reporting by victims. After all, the eradication of violence targeted at women and children remains one of our key priorities.
Decrease in Assault with intent to inflict GBH
During our reporting back to the nation last year, we announced that this category had experienced a 0,5% decrease. During the 2010/11 financial year, we have seen a further decrease with a 4,5% ratio on the assault with the intent to inflict grievous bodily harm.
Decrease in Aggravated Robberies
We are encouraged by the constant decline in aggravated robberies over the last two years. We believe that some of our initiatives in addressing this form of crime are starting to yield success but we shall continue to work harder and smarter, to reduce this form of crime. During the current fiscal the robbery with aggravating circumstances ratio decreased by 12,0%.
We believe that improvements in both our detection and conviction rates are as significant contributing factor to this decline; as is our approach to increasing police visibility and targeted visible police interventions. In addition the strong emphasis we have placed on building partnerships has also impacted positively on such crimes.
Decrease in House Robberies
Two years ago when we released our 2008/09 crime statistics, we expressed concerns regarding house robberies, which had increased dramatically.
At the time we committed ourselves to developing and implementing measures to reduce house robberies. Last year this form of crime began to show signs of stabilizing as we began to avert the continued steep and upward trend.
During the 2010/11 financial year for the first time in since 2004 the number of recorded cases started to decline significantly, with a 10,1%, from 18 786 reported cases last year to 16 889 cases for the fiscal under review.
Our engagement with the Insurance industry reflects that they too have started to witness the impact of this decline. According to the South African Insurance Crime Bureau different insurance companies are experiencing a decline in the range of between 4% and 31%.
Decrease in Car Hijackings
Another area where the tide is beginning to turn against criminals is in the area of car hijackings. For the last three years this form of crime was starting to gradually increase.
Over the last two years we have been able not only to stabilize this form of crime but our figures for 2010/11 are the lowest seen since 2003/04. For the first time in eight years the figure has dropped below 10 700. For the 2010/11 financial year, car hijacking decreased by 23,6%.
During engagements with both Tracker companies and the South African Insurance Crime Bureau they indicated that they were also experiencing significant decline in cases of theft of vehicles.
Decrease in Truck Hijackings
During the 2010/11 financial year, truck hijackings decreased by 29,2% with 413 cases recorded in comparison with a 1,7% the previous financial year, that is, 2009/10.
Decrease in Burglary at Residential Premises
During the 2009/10 financial year, the burglary at residential premises ratio increased by 2,7%. To address this challenge, we undertook to capacitate the Private Security Industry Regulatory Authority, to further complement this industry’s cooperation with police.
For the financial year under review, that is 2010/11, the burglary at residential premises ratio decreased by 4,8%. We can attribute this improvement amongst others, the success of ‘Operation Duty Calls’ festive season campaign.
Increase in Non-Residential Robberies
The organized business sector continues to experience decreases in robbery.
From 2005 – 2008 there was a massive steep increase and from last year there we witnessed a stabilizing trend of this crime category. For the 2010/11 financial year, there was a 0,9% increase in non-residential, particularly on smaller businesses, spaza shops, super markets, taverns, schools and general dealers.
Last year we informed the nation that we were working on a pilot-project to address small business robberies. This is a difficult area to manage and secure because of the capacity to do as big business do. Now, based on this persistent challenge in smaller business, we are developing a National Small Business Robbery Strategy which will be finalized by the end of this year and then be rolled out across the country.
Decrease in Cash-In-Transit
The detection and arrest of key criminals involved in bank and Cash-In-Transit robberies coupled with our rapid response to such crimes and our partnerships with the business community; has continued to result in declines in this form of crime.
The decision to allow the printing of photographs of criminals wanted for such crimes has also contributed to an increase in the number of arrests made. We are therefore pleased to see a massive decrease of 18,7% for the 2010/11 financial year, from a 7,3% in the 2009/10 financial year.
Decrease in Bank Robbery
Again through coordinated efforts with our partners from Business we have witnessed one of the biggest improvements in our crime statistics for the year under review. Bank robbery decreased by 58,1% with 93 cases recorded in 2009/10 to 39 for the 2010/11 financial year.
Decrease in Stock Theft
Since 2008 one form of crime which has deeply concerned us is the increase in stock theft. Whilst we are encouraged that there has been a decline of 8,2% in the number of reported cases of stock theft during the past fiscal, we are still not really happy with the situation.
Not only are the figures still too high and the impact to serve but we also need to make sure that the decline is not a result of possible under-reporting. Late last year we launched the Rural Safety Strategy and now need make sure that this strategy draws in farm-workers, commercial and small farmers as well as local rural communities themselves.
Farmers, farm-workers and residents within rural communities are considered soft targets by criminals. This is due to the remoteness of farms, high market value of properties, large distances between farms and villages and the inaccessibility to the police as well as basic infrastructure, such as roads. Rural police stations are often isolated and responsible to police vast areas.
Decrease in illegal possession of firearms and ammunition
Although the illegal possession of firearms ration decreased by 2,0% during the financial year 2010/11, we are still concerned about the continuous loss of firearms both in hands of police and civilians.
The department has over the last 18 months been putting in place measures to reduce the number of firearms stolen or lost by SAPS members. These include IBIS testing of all firearms, stricter controls on reporting, checking of firearms as well as improving sanctions procedures and processes in instances where SAPS officials lose firearms. We shall continue to be tough on those officers found to have negligently lost firearms, including civilians.
Increase in ATM Blasts
One area of concern to the police during the past financial year was the significant increase in ATM bombings which increased by 61,5%, from 247 recorded cases in 2009/10 to 399 in the 2010/11 financial year.
This massive increase further correlates with the statistics provided by the South African Banking Risk Information Centre. The majority of these blasts took place in Gauteng, with a 57,1% followed by North West with 12,4%.
Some of these trends are informed by migration and displacement of crime from one province to another but we are beginning to intensify our operations in some of these hard-hit provinces.
However despite this massive increase we are encouraged by the fact that a concerted focus on this form of crime is starting yield some successes. According to figures from SABRIC, this form of crime has started to decline with a 17% decline in ATM robberies since April 2011 compared to the same period last year.
Increase in Drug-related Crimes
The drug-related crime ratio increased by 10,2% in the 2010/11 financial year. We are now intensifying our approaches by mounting operations that are aimed at cracking the backbones of drug-lord syndicates instead of focusing and arresting drug-peddlers.
We are also working with other sister departments including Social Development and Basic Education as most affected are young children. We also acknowledge that dealing with drugs is a global challenge that needs to be coordinated with our international counterparts.
Increase in cases of Drunken Driving
In 2009/10 driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs ratio increased by 10,6% and for the 2010/11 financial year, an increase was 4,5%.
In dealing with this crime, it is incumbent upon all South Africans to abide by the road safety laws and as the ministry we will continue to support campaigns such as Arrive Alive. We all have a duty to ensure that our roads are safe and those who break the law, will be severely punished.
Increase in Commercial Crime
The commercial crime ratio increased by 2,8% for the 2010/11 financial year.
As we mentioned during last year’s announcement, it is becoming evidently clear that this crime is not a unique South African phenomenon, but a global challenge. It is our endearing hope that as we partner with our international counterparts, that we will be able to improve in dealing with this crime.
Arrest of 49 of the top 50 most wanted criminals
The following successes were achieved by the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation (DPCI) for the 2010/11 financial year. In tackling commercial crime, the Hawks arrested 8 294 and secured 5 267 convictions; when it comes to organized crime they further arrested 2 439 and secured 532 convictions.
During the period under review, the Directorate profiled and pursued 50 most wanted suspects for armed robberies, ATM bombings cash-in-transit and bank robberies. They apprehended 49, and they are in hot pursuit of the 1 one elusive scoundrel who is still at large.
More Arrests, More Detection, More Convictions
To effectively deal a blow to crime, we have as the police leadership emphasized to police management that they need to secure more and more convictions. Unless we attain these our efforts will not yield the desired results.
Many of the suspects arrested would have been involved in more than one crime incident and some instances one individual would range from 35 to 50 incidents. It is also premised on the reality that the majority of South Africans are law-abiding citizens and that the majority of crimes are committed by a small group of people are repeat offenders.
Decrease in Police Deaths
On a sore note, each financial year we come before the nation to sadly announce men and women in blue who lost their lives – in pursuit of safeguarding us. In the 2009/10 financial we announced that 110 police officers passed away in the line of duty; this financial year, 2010/11 there was a slight decrease as we lost 94 police officers.
We are also concerned about the increasing attacks and killings of our officers since the beginning of the year; but remain confident that as we work with all our partners, we will be able to defeat these heartless criminals.
These heroes remained fearless for they knew that their duty was to the society and their mission was to wage a war against crime. By taking a stance against crime and all its evils, this can be the best memory we can afford these heroes who put their country’s welfare above their own.
Improving the SAPS to effectively fight crime
The transformation of the police must across the country, focus on the type of Police Service we want to see. It must ensure that our Police Service at all levels is reflective of the society it polices and the values we wish to promote within our society.
The current review process of the White Paper for Safety and Security will therefore guide our approach to the overall transformation of the police.
Improving the police response is an objective that remains a priority for the department. The equitable distribution of police stations is essential in ensuring that the services provided by SAPS in support of safe and secured communities is to be realized by all people.
Critically, focus must be placed on mobilizing society to make life difficult for criminals in our midst. This should include an overhaul of gender and family relations and intolerance of abuse within communities.
Alongside our operational approaches we shall ensure that there is a concerted focus on human resource development from recruitment to retirement and to ensure effectiveness of our service delivery at all levels within the police.
The 2010/11 financial year crime statistics confirm our assertion that indeed the tide against crime is turning and that police, joined by society are gaining an upper hand against vicious criminals. The statistics however, should serve as a motivating factor and encouragement in all our efforts.
Training is also a crucial part of our approach to improving policing. We have now revised how and what is involved in training. Our training must tackle both the content and the manner in which we train. Training cannot be just about churning out numbers but must be ongoing and relevant.
Victory against crime is now an achievable goal. However for as long as young children are still under the bondage of crime and drugs; for as long as businesses are robbed, for as long as women are abused and raped, for as long as South Africans across are mugged and hijacked – none of us can must rest.
The war on crime must continue; a war by the way, that has been declared by heartless criminals on law-abiding citizens. Cautiously, these year’s crime statistics tell us that we must never be complacent and say our work is done.
We all have a duty to make categorical commitment to work even harder to indeed give true impetus to government’s undertaking that: “All People in South Africa Are and Feel Safe.”