Crime stats: Murders fall by 8,6%

Violent crime declined last year in South Africa, the police minister said on Thursday, with murders down 8,6% to under 17 000, in one of the world’s most violent countries.

“The murder figure fell below the 17 000 mark, compared to 26 877 in the 1995-1996 fiscal year,” police minister Nathi Mthethwa told a press conference in Pretoria.

“We are really encouraged in the significant decline in the murder rate. Of all crimes this is one category that you cannot cheat,” he said.

The crime statistics report covered the year ending in March, and showed violent crime generally was on the decline, with attempted murders down by 6,1% and sexual offences down by 4,4%, he said.

A total of 26 311 people were arrested connected with sexual crimes.

He said the reintroduction of specialised units such as the Family Violence, Child Protection and Sexual Offences, would contribute to decreasing this even further.

In the fight against crime 110 police officers lost their lives. It was critical to remove corrupt police officers from the South African Police Service, said Mthethwa.

The overall drop in several crime categories was “satisfactory”, but more needed to be done, he said.

The number of cash-in-transit heists fell 7,3% to 358 for 2009/10, resulting in 52 arrests.

Bank robberies decreased 8,8%, while car and truck hijacking saw a 6,8% decline.

Between 2008 and 2009, there were 14 915 car hijackings, which dropped to 13 902.

The report did not cover the period of the Soccer World Cup, which was held from June 11 to July 11.
- AFP, Sapa

Cautious welcome
Political parties and the banking industry on Thursday cautiously welcomed the statistics.

The Democratic Alliance said South Africans must leave room to be “cautiously optimistic”, adding that there could be an even greater improvement next year due to the special measures during the Soccer World Cup.

There were 2,1-million crimes reported in the 2009/2010 period.

The Christian Democratic Party welcomed the announcement that the country’s murder rate had fallen, but questioned the accuracy of some of the statistics.

The Inkatha Freedom Party commended the police, but said that more still needed to be done.

Velaphi Ndlovu, the party’s police spokesperson, said the report showed that the police’s immense efforts to combat crime, and efforts to keep South Africa a safe place for both locals and tourists, had paid off.

“The IFP believes that special commendation must go to the SAPS for the significant decrease in South Africa’s murder rate.”

Ndlovu said South Africans should not forget that it was still ranked as one of the countries with highest rates of crime.

The banking industry also welcomed a drop in cash-in-transit heists and bank robberies.

The number of cash-in-transit heists dropped by 7,3% for the year ending March 31, as compared to 2008/2009.

During that period 358 heists took place as compared to the corresponding period ending March 2009 were there were 386 heists.

“We are cautiously optimistic that the continued efforts by the police to strengthen their partnerships with business and other sectors in the fight against crime will yield desired results,” said South African Banking Risk Information Centre chief executive Kalyani Pillay.

Blowing up of ATMs and follow-home cash robberies still remained a concern to the banking industry, she said.

Meanwhile, UDM leader Bantu Holomisa said a certain amount of scepticism would prevail because of the government’s refusal to release crime statistics on a more regular and timely basis.

He said the latest statistics were already six-months-old and that the country could only celebrate when there had been several years of steady improvements and fewer South Africans were victims of crime. - Sapa

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