In the wake of increased concerns about the level of violent crimes witnessed within the Cape Flats, Minister Fikile Mbalula on Tuesday released the latest crime statistics, the first since he was appointed in the March cabinet reshuffle.
Speaking to VOC, crime expert for the Institute of Security Studies, Graham Newham explains that while the stats are reflective of historical data, being some seven months old, the numbers are important since it provides details on how much crime and what forms of crimes are reported to the police each year. He says that once the stats are probed, analysts are able to identify where the risks of crime activity are and what the key trends are.
“The very disturbing points of this statistics are that the two most reliable categories released – murder and armed robbery – have gone up quite considerably.”
Murder going up by 1.8 per cent last year, translates to almost 3500 more people being murdered last year as compared to five year ago.
“52 people are murdered in South Africa every day on average. About 40 of those are men, seven or eight are women and three or four are children,” he noted.
Being the most reliable indicator of crime stats in the country, which can be verified through other sources,
Newham says that the stats should concern South Africans since an individual is “13 per cent more likely to be killed than five years ago.”
With regards to armed robbery, he says that stats provide an indication of crime trends; whether armed criminals are working alone or in groups, are attacking people in their homes or on the street, or where criminal are increasingly involved in organised crimes such as hijackings, which stats indicate has increased by almost 40 000 cases over the last five years.
“[There are] 110 armed attacks across the country everyday on average. Why that is worrying is that that is a crime that the police can get on top of. [The police] has been able to it reduce in the past, because the police budget has increase over the last five years by almost 50 per cent…with a budget of R87 billion.”
Newham lays the blame for the ineffective crack down on armed crimes by the police at poor political appointments in the National Development Plan.
He further asserts that the protection of “corrupt and incompetent senior officers” seated at the helm of law enforcement departments has resulted in the ineffective utilization of resources to clamp down on syndicates and crime in general.
“They have enough resources, technology and experience. But, because the top echelon is a mess, they can’t erect properly at the station level where it is most likely needed.”
Commenting on the call to bring in the army into areas of concern, Newham says that the army is periodically brought in to assist in crime prevention; a method he notes has proven ineffective.
This, he said, is due to the training that military personnel undergo, adding that the military creates a cordon around targeted areas for the police to conduct searches.
“We are very familiar with the extent to which the military can play a role in crime fighting and as is attested by the murder and aggravated murder figures, the military has not helped bring those figures down,” he stated.
Given increased calls for the implementation of the death penalty, Newham said that internationally the death penalty has proven to be effective in eradicating crime.
With the exception of Japan, where entire teams are dedicated to one single crime, he says that most criminal justice systems do not solve most crimes, with South Africa only solving one in five crimes.
“When criminals commit crimes, they do not think that they will get caught, so they don’t even think of the penalty that is going to happen to them.”
In addition, with the implementation of the death penalty, Newham says that South Africa’s already burdened criminal justice system may lead to innocent people being executed by the state.
“So what we end up doing is committing more injustice, rather than looking at long term solutions that will bring violence down.” VOC