/ 5 July 2009

Crime stats scam exposed

The Mountain Rise Police Station has some explaining to do after a scheme to manipulate statistics is uncovered, writes Sello S Alcock.

A KwaZulu-Natal police whistleblower, who was suspended without pay because, he said, he exposed fraudulent crime statistics, has had his salary reinstated.

Constable Craig Josiah approached the KwaZulu-Natal High Court in Pietermaritzburg last month to set aside his suspension. He claimed he had been victimised and subjected to trumped-up charges after he exposed “fraudulent” activities in the capturing of crime statistics.

Judge Fikile Mokgohloa ordered that Josiah’s salary be reinstated pending the state’s filing of its papers and argument in court on Josiah’s suspension.

Josiah’s station commissioner, Director Hariram Badul, had discontinued his salary on March 9. This was after the Independent Complaints Directorate (ICD), acting on information provided by Josiah, raided the Mountain Rise Police Station in Pietermaritzburg and discovered 170 unregistered dockets stacked away in a room.

Mokgohloa ordered that all disciplinary proceedings “be stayed” and that “no further disciplinary proceedings” be brought against Josiah.

Josiah’s affidavit to the court said his problems began when Badul ordered detectives to proceed with investigating only matters “where suspects were immediately available or easily ascertainable”.

“We were specifically instructed that in all other matters the docket was to be kept aside in a separate room,” Josiah told the court. “It was clear that the purpose of this ‘new arrangement’ was to ensure that criminal complaints that were unlikely to be successfully investigated and subsequently prosecuted would conveniently be left out of the reporting system, thereby falsely reducing the crime statistics for Mountain Rise Police Station.”

He said that the “new arrangement” was “startling” to station members as they were of the view that it “constituted fraud”.

Another instruction, Josiah said, was that officers should capture an alternative or lesser charge for crimes that were considered to be on the increase, “thereby reducing the instances of those crimes”.

“It obviously also meant that all these complaints that were now set aside were no longer being recorded as part of the crime statistics. It also goes without saying that these crimes were therefore not policed. This carried on from February/March 2007 and as far as I know continues even today,” Josiah said.

The following year the dockets started to pile up and “management decided to destroy the dockets, by burning them in batches”, Josiah said.

Josiah and “a few other committed individuals” started secretly stashing away some of the dockets, accumulating about 250 over a six- to eight-month period.

Badul’s “new arrangement” paid dividends last August when the province’s commissioner commended Mountain Rise Police Station as the “number 1” station in the province “based on the percentage of reduction of its crime statistics”. The station had previously been ranked 40th out of 184 stations.

“As a consequence of this commendation, each member of the police station, some 300 members at Mountain Rise Police Station, received a once-off payment of approximately R2 800,” said Josiah.

A month before the incentive, Josiah and his colleagues sent a memorandum of their allegations to acting national commissioner Tim Williams. Soon thereafter Josiah’s superiors told him he was going to be “sorted out”.

He later confided his misgivings about the crime statistics to state prosecutors. “Within two hours of my having made these declarations to the prosecutors, I was redeployed from the detective services to the uniform branch … I received a letter signed by Badul himself, effectively transferring me out of the detective branch to the uniformed branch,” said Josiah.

A month later he resubmitted his complaint to Williams’s office and this was followed by a barrage of misconduct complaints from his superiors.

“The stress of my work conditions became unbearable and I went to see a psychologist — who put me off work for one month,” Josiah said.

A subsequent raid by the ICD on Mountain Rise Police Station discovered the dockets that Josiah’s affidavit described.

Mountain Rise Police Station referred the M&G‘s queries to KwaZulu-Natal police spokesperson Senior Superintendent Henry Budhram. At the time of going to press Budhram had not returned calls from the M&G.