Violent crime claims heavy toll among police

More South African police officers were killed in the 11 years since the end of apartheid than in the previous period, a new study that highlights one of the world’s highest crime rates showed on Tuesday.

The South African Institute of Race Relations said 1 894 police officers were killed between 1995 and 2005, compared with 1 152 between 1983 and 1993, the last years of apartheid, which were marked by political violence and a state of emergency.

“This is a reflection of the violent nature of our society,” said Frans Cronje, development director at the institute.

“Obviously the police are paying the price of the high crime rates we are facing; they are at the forefront of this crime,” Cronje said.

The South African Police Service reported in its annual crime statistics in July that murders, hijackings and violent robberies rose in the past year, despite efforts to reduce one of the world’s highest crime rates.

South Africa’s murder rate jumped by 2,4% between April 1 last year and March 31 this year, the police report said. There were 19 202 murders during the period.

Cronje said that although in most cases the police are equipped to combat crime, there are questions about their fitness, training and psychological preparedness, given a very high suicide rate among police officers.

But South African police refute suggestions that they are not trained to tackle crime.

“It is unfair to say that officers are not trained to respond to these violent criminals.
In some instances, it might have some truth in it, but mostly it is not true because we have had numerous successes,” said Superintendent Eugene Opperman, Gauteng police spokesperson.

“There are criminals out there who have got no respect whatsoever for the law, and police officers come under a lot of armed attack,” said Opperman, whose region includes Johannesburg and faces some of the country’s worst crime rates.—Reuters