Crime stats: Increase in serious crimes a cause for concern

The official crime statistics report released by the South African Police Service on Friday for the period April 2013 to March 2014 reveal a substantial increase in a number of categories of the most serious crime.   

There was an increase in murder, attempted murder, robbery with aggravating circumstances and common robbery.

The report shows that murder increased 5% from 16 257 last year to 17 068, attempted murder went up by 4.6%, aggravated robbery went up by 12.7% and common robbery increased 0.6%.

“We are very concerned about that,” said national police commissioner Riah Phiyega during the announcement of crime statistics.

Police Minister Nkosinathi Nhleko said they have observed that there were higher levels of violence in society. He attributed the increase in violence to social ills such as the abuse of drugs and alcohol. “The prevalence of drugs and alcohol abuse in our community is extremely concerning,” he said.

Nhleko added that cultural violence and aggression also contributed to the higher crime levels and noted that the increase in social unrest needed a “broader solution”.   Phiyega added, “We are saying murder requires also that society works very closely with us to assist us to achieve a reduction.”

Decrease in the total sexual offences
The crime stats report showed that there was a slight decrease in the total sexual offences. A drop of 5.6% was reported showing a decline from 66 387 last year to the current figure of 62 649. The minister said sexual offences against women and children was still an area of concern. “The decrease doesn’t mean that there are no incidences … they do exist,” he said.

Nhleko added: “If you look at the five- or 10-year trends combined with the year under review, contact crime [crime against a person(s)] is a permanent feature,” he said.

The report also showed that hijackings have increased 12.3% from last year while cash-in-transit robberies have remained the same.

Another major concern was the increase in robbery at residential and non-residential showing increases of 7.4% and 13.7% respectively. 

The Institute Security Studies (ISS) brought questions about the accuracy and integrity of the crime statistics to the fore last year. ISS was at at odds with the police ministry about the manner in which the crime statistics released were calculated.

The ISS said the crime statistics the police released in September 2013 contained a miscalculation, and that they were downplaying the rate of violent crime.

At the time, ISS governance, crime and justice division head Gareth Newham said the police had used population estimates calculated by Statistics SA in 2001 instead of using data from the 2011 census which showed there were 52.3-million people in South Africa. By not updating the population, the police had understated the increase in serious and violent crimes, Newham said.

Nhleko spoke to the criticism during the crime stats announcements today. He said the figures released were raw figures that were audited by the auditor general of South Africa. He added: “The police would work with the auditor general and Statistics South Africa to ensure better statistics and improve the integrity of the statistics going forward.”

In the year under review, there was a decrease in various crimes including commercial crime, stock theft, sexual offences, shoplifting, theft of motor vehicles and motor cycles, and arson. He said in the year under review, the police confiscated large quantities of drugs.

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