Crime levels 'continue to be unacceptably high'

The Democratic Alliance (DA) has questioned the accuracy of the latest crime statistics released on Monday, saying decreases in certain categories could be due to under-reporting.

South Africa’s recorded murder rate reached a new post-1994 low in the past year—but still came to 18 487 people killed.

“The DA is treating the latest release of crime statistics with the deepest scepticism,” DA spokesperson Dianne Kohler Barnard said in a statement.

The Freedom Front Plus (FF+), in its reaction to the latest crime figures, warned they could lead to “a false sense of confidence about crime” in South Africa.

“The figure for murder is now 38,6 per 100 000 of the population, but the world average for murder is five per 100 000 ... In South Africa, murder is still nearly eight times higher than the world average,” FF+ safety and security spokesperson Pieter Groenewald said in a statement.

Kohler Barnard said while it looked as if crime was decreasing, it might be the case that fewer people were reporting crimes.

“The question that we need to ask is how many South Africans bother to report crimes to the police anymore?” she said.

The latest statistics showed decreases in many categories, which the DA welcomed, if they represented decreases in crime and not in reporting rates.

“The DA believes that we can achieve a significant reduction in crime if the necessary leadership and proper policies are in place. Unfortunately both are glaringly absent at present, as is typified by the current situation in which police National Commissioner Jackie Selebi has been placed on leave with full pay while his court case drags on,” Kohler-Barnard said.

Despite repeated calls for integrated crime statistics, there was still no indication of how many reported crimes led to arrests, court appearances and convictions.

All the current figures did was show how many people had reported crimes, which excluded all the disillusioned people who no longer did so.

Quoting “available figures”, Kohler Barnard said as many as 51% of victims did not report serious crimes such as robbery and only 49% felt that the police were doing a good job.

“How much of the declining crime stats are due to real decreases in crime? We can only guess,” she said.

Furthermore, the police could not “continue to hide” behind the trend that a high number of victims and perpetrators knew each other.

“If the victims knew their perpetrators, why such a low rate of arrest?”

Mulder said from the 2006/07 financial year to date, robberies at residences had increased by 38,9%.

“Motor vehicle hijackings have increased by 4,4 percent [14 201].

“These types of crimes threaten the lives of the public and they are unsafe in their own homes and on their way to their work.
This confirms the public’s view that crime is increasing and is out of control,” Groenewald said.

African Christian Democratic Party spokesperson Steve Swart said that while he noted the drop in murder and aggravated robbery, the statistics were still at unacceptable levels.

“We note with alarm the increase in business robberies, up about a third from 6 689 to 9 862 cases, house robberies being up 13,5% from 12 761 to 14 481, car hijackings up 4,4% from 13 599 to 14 201 cases, and particularly the increase in truck hijackings at nearly 40%.

“Clearly, the government is still failing in its duty to protect its citizens from the ravages of crime.”

Earlier, speaking at the release of the crime statistics for the period from April 2007 to March this year, Minister of Safety and Security Charles Nqakula said: “Government is concerned that ... the levels of crime continue to be unacceptably high.

“We would have wanted to see a more drastic decrease.”

The latest figures show that all the country’s contact crimes have come down in the past year by an overall 6,4%.

These crimes include murder, attempted murder, rape, assault GBH, common assault, common robbery, robbery with aggravating circumstances and indecent assault.

Attempted murder was down by 7,5% with 18 795 cases being reported, or a crime ratio of 39,3 incidents per 100 000 of the population, down from 42,5 incidents in 2006/2007.

In 2007/2008, 439,1 people out of 100 000 were assaulted with the intention to do grievous bodily harm—which translated into 210 104 cases reported to police.

Common assault was down to 198 049 cases reported, or 413,9 per 100 000 of the population. This showed a decrease of 6,6% compared with the previous year’s figures of 210 057 cases reported.

Common robbery had a 9,5% decline, the biggest decrease in contact crimes, with 64 985 cases reported, or 135,8 incidents out of 100 000 people.

Robbery with aggravating circumstance was down from 126 558 reported cases in 2006/07 to 118 312 cases reported in 2007/208.

But a breakdown of the aggravated robbery figures showed that carjacking was up to 14 201 cases reported compared with the 13 599 cases last year. Truck hijacking was up to 1 245 from 892 cases last year.

There were also 1 720 more cases of robbery at residential premises, with 14 481 cases being reported; robbery at non-residential premises was up to 9 862 cases reported from 6 689 cases in 2006/07.

Incidents of cash-in-transit robberies came down to 395 cases reported in the past year, but 144 bank robberies were recorded, 15 more than the year before.

Rape and indecent assault statistics were only presented for the nine months ending in December, since the law on rape changed in that month to include male rape.

During that period 36 190 rapes were recorded, or 75,6 cases per 100 000 of the population, and indecent assault was slightly down to 6 763 cases reported, compared with the 6 812 cases in the previous year.

Although contact crimes have reduced, the trend that perpetrators and victims were known to each other has continued.

Police Assistant Commissioner Chris de Kock said: “This decrease shows that something is slowly but surely changing in society.”

He said the consumption of alcohol still played a major role in the instances of social crimes.

Nqakula and police top-brass are holding talks in Pretoria on Tuesday to see what new strategies they can come up with to further bring down crime.—Sapa

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