Crime stats rot spreads

Abandoned dagga was used as a pretext to open 10 fictitious police case dockets at Cape Town’s Kirstenhof police station in 2008, claims former police inspector Harry Emery.

“I was in charge of exhibits when a Pollsmoor warder brought in two large envelopes, one containing dagga and the other containing cellphones,” 52-year-old Emery told the Mail & Guardian. “The dagga is normally dumped. But this time the dagga was divided up and 10 fictitious dockets were opened.”

Emery, who took early retirement last year, claims the fictitious dockets were meant to create the impression that Kirstenhof police had made more arrests than they really had.
This would boost the station’s low performance ratings, he said.

“There had been talk at the station that the manipulation of crime statistics was going on,” said Emery. “But I finally saw what was happening with my own eyes.”

The M&G has established that a clerk at the police station refused to register the dockets, despite pressure from senior police officers. Another clerk eventually registered the dockets.

An M&G investigation last year revealed the manipulation of crime statistics at, among others, the Gugulethu police station When police officials checked on those who the dockets named as having been arrested in connection with illegal possession of dagga, they allegedly found they were fictitious.

Emery said he approached a senior officer to complain about the fictitious dockets. “I was told to mind my own business,” he said.

The M&G has seen a copy of Emery’s exit report on leaving the police service, in which he stated that he considered himself “an upright and honourable policeman” but could no longer see himself working at a station where there were so many irregularities.

“I also found that management had been manipulating the crime statistics by registering false complaints where fictitious persons were charged,” Emery wrote.

As a result of Emery’s statement about the manipulation of crime statistics, a provincial investigation was launched in January last year.

During the investigation Vumile Joel Swartbooi, a member of the detective unit at Kirstenhof, gave a sworn statement to a provincial officer stating that five of the case dockets involving the dagga had been falsely issued under his name.

“I discovered only later that the abovementioned case dockets were allocated to my name on the system,” Swartbooi wrote in his statement, which was leaked to the M&G. “I never conducted any investigation [of] any of the abovementioned case dockets.”

Fictitious dockets were invented to create the impression that Kirstenhof police had made more arrests than they really had. (Photos: David Harrison) Having dedicated 28 years to serving in the South African Police Service (SAPS), Emery said he was concerned no action had yet been taken against the senior officials who ordered the fictitious dockets. He said if he did not break the code of secrecy around the manipulation of crime statistics he would not be able to live with his conscience.

In his exit report Emery is described as having grown “very negative” under the new station management, but the interviewer noted that he was “very dedicated and committed, with a passion for police work”.

Provincial police spokesperson Novella Potelwa said the matter involving the dagga had been investigated by the police inspectorate division, which had found no intention to manipulate crime statistics. “The matter was further dealt with between the SAPS and the department of correctional services,” she said.

Emery’s revelations follow the launch of an investigation by the Independent Complaints Directorate (ICD) in June last year into claims that police stations in Paarl, Paarl East, Mbekweni, Wellington and Oudtshoorn had been involved in manipulating crime statistics. The investigation has not yet been finalised.

An M&G investigation last year revealed allegations, contained in leaked police reports, of the manipulation of crime statistics at stations in Bishop Lavis, Knysna, Gugulethu, Delft, Paarl and Paarl East.

  • Western Cape police commissioner Mzwandile Petros and his former assistant, Anwa Dramat, now head of the Hawks, were informed at least two years ago that police stations in the province were manipulating crime statistics, according to internal police reports leaked to the M&G. Petros told the M&G in October last year that one of the leaked reports, headed “Manipulation of crime statistics” and apparently sent to him in December 2006 by Jan Solomons, then director of the police’s Western Cape evaluation service, was a fake. The disputed report stated that “quite a substantial number of stations were involved in manipulation”.
  • During two interviews last year Petros refused to comment on the other police reports leaked to the M&G, one of which, sent to Dramat by a top police director, alleged the manipulation of crime statistics at Bishop Lavis police station in 2007. Two captains at the station “confirmed the practice of manipulation of crime statistics by the previous management”, according to the report leaked to the M&G, and appended to their affidavits.
  • A 2007 report by the SAPS national inspectorate on the Knysna police station was addressed to Dramat and showed there were concerns that “all cases reported to the police were not registered as crime”.
  • In a report on Gugulethu police station, apparently sent to Petros in 2008 and leaked to the M&G, Solomons outlined how seven dockets that were not registered were discovered in the crime office. The inspection also found that four inquest dockets were filed as deaths from natural causes, but no medical reports or death certificates were provided.
  • In a national inspectorate report on Delft police station in 2008 it was stated that a number of police hand radios could not be produced and the crime administration system numbers recorded for the missing equipment related to theft of hairdryers and dustbins.
  • A police report leaked to the M&G last year alleged that a captain at Paarl station had the responsibility of manipulating crime statistics to reflect a lower incidence of crime. The report was addressed to Petros in 2009 by director Vincent Beaton, who had just been appointed station commissioner at the Paarl station and contained sworn statements from four officers at the station. Petros’s office declined to comment during interviews with the M&G last year “as it does not want to jeopardise the ICD investigation”.
  • Another crime intelligence document leaked to the M&G revealed that an identified suspect accused of raping three women in Paarl and Paarl East in 2008 was allowed to roam free because the cases were allegedly among those not registered and investigated by police.

Glynnis Underhill

Glynnis Underhill

Glynnis Underhill has been in journalism for more years than she cares to remember. She loves a good story as much now as she did when she first started. The only difference is today she hopes she is giving something back to the country. Read more from Glynnis Underhill

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