Portfolio committee unhappy with low SAPS detection sights for serious crimes

Low SAPS detection targets have provoked concern among members of Parliament's police portfolio committee, who demanded an explanation. (Gallo)

Low SAPS detection targets have provoked concern among members of Parliament's police portfolio committee, who demanded an explanation. (Gallo)

Briefing MPs on Thursday, senior police officers said their detective service aimed to increase its detection rate for serious crimes this year to 56.5% (1 082 861 cases) of the total number of cases reported.

Of the 1 082 861 cases, a total of 190 243 would become "trial-ready case dockets".

These targets provoked concern among members of Parliament's police portfolio committee, who demanded an explanation. Freedom Front Plus MP Pieter Groenewald wanted to know why only 17.5% of serious crime cases went to court.

"If we look at the figures ... we have 1 082 861 reported cases.
Then, if we look at the trial-ready cases ... we're only talking about 17.5% of the detected cases.

"So we're telling South Africans that as far as reported cases are concerned, in only 17.5% of those cases do we have trial-ready dockets ... I want to know what the real problem is," he said.

The committee was being briefed by the police department on the detective service programme contained in its 2013/14 annual performance plan.

'Not happy'
According to this document, "serious crime" includes so-called contact crime, contact-related crime, property-related crime "and other serious crime and crime detected as a result of police action".

Responding to Groenewald's question, divisional commissioner detective services Vinesh Moonoo said the other cases were still being investigated.

"The other cases are still under investigation – which are not yet ready for trial – or there are others where there are still no suspects arrested. So it will be still in the system, still under investigation," he said.

Acting committee chairperson Annelize van Wyk told the police delegation the committee was not happy.

She acknowledged the 2013/14 conviction rate for serious crime needed to be taken into account, because the target set for this was higher (313 144 cases) than the number of trial-ready case dockets.

This supported the assertion that some cases were still under investigation.

"It runs over from one year to another. But it still remains that we are not happy. The problem starts with the number of cases detected. That's where it starts. This committee is still not happy with that.

Unacceptable figures
"This programme has received resources that no other programme in the department received last year. In fact, you've received resources over the past 10 years ... that no other section within the department has received.

"So we can no longer accept these kinds of figures. The problem starts with closed and detected [cases]," she said. The performance plan made no reference to closed cases.

"The number of [serious crime] cases closed undetected must be in; it's not in [the document]. We need that figure. That is the important figure," Van Wyk said.

According to the plan, the serious crime detection rate target for 2013/14 is 56%, or 1 082 932 of actual cases. This implies there are a total of about 1.93-million such cases, of which about 850 000 will be unsolved.

Tiny increases
​Democratic Alliance MP Dianne Kohler-Barnard said targets were being set too low.

"We're seeing low detection rates for serious crimes; we're looking at a [2013/14] target of just 1.5% [up on the previous year]. Next year [2014/15] you aim for a 2.5% [increase in the detection rate for serious crime], and after that nothing, you just want to maintain the status quo in 2015/16."

There was no indication the detective service had any hope of decreasing serious crime in its 2015/16 medium-term target.

"At no stage do you seem to actually aim for the aspirational 100% when it comes to conviction rates. Isn't that your job? We pay you billions and billions, but nobody seems able to raise the bar.

"We're looking at minute increases ... nobody sets aspirational targets any more ... We're seeing little, miniscule targets. Is it because you don't reach the targets that you don't want to set yourselves up to fail?" she asked. – Sapa

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