Releasing the crime stats in Parliament on Tuesday to the police committee, National Police commissioner Riah Phiyega said some of the crimes most feared by communities included murder, burglary and having their bags snatched.
And they have reason to be, as some of these contact and contact related crimes have steadily increased over the years. On average, 49 people are murdered a day in this country.
Murder is up by 4.6%, attempted murder 3.2% and aggravated robbery is up by 8.5%. Total sexual offences have decreased by 5.4%, while common assault has decreased by 2.8%. Highlighting some of the achievements and challenges faced by police in the country, police minister Nathi Nhleko told the committee on Tuesday that contact crime had increased by 0.9% in the 2014/15 year, while contact related crime, which included malicious damage to property, had increased by 1.9%. While property related crimes had decreased by 0.8% in the year, burglary out of non-residential premises, theft out of vehicles and stock theft had all increased.
Police alone cannot resolve murder issue
Nhleko said the country needed to mobilise all structures within society to begin to tackle the issue of the prevalence of violence in communities. “It will start off with a slap in the face, and can graduate to something else. The issue of contact crimes is a social phenomenon. It is a matter that needs to be dealt with at a multi-disciplinary level across society, and the point here, is that to [assume] that it is police that must resolve the issue of murder is a hallucination in a sense.” He said murder, and contact crime, were a social problem.
“It is a problem that has got to be tackled at levels of family units, which are basic units of the composition of our societies. The manner in which we school and groom our children on how to manage interpersonal relations and so forth becomes quite critical, so you require effective social mobilisation around that.”
He said the murder occurred mostly at night, during weekends when people were socialising, and around the festive season. Making an example of a study in Kwazulu-Natal, he said in that area, 55 people were killed during Christmas day and 54 during New Years.
Nhleko said some of the issues faced in the country included an increase in public protests, which should not be seen as a police issue only. “2014/15 has not been an exception when it comes to that. Alongside that it means new pressure points around issues of policing and methods of policing. It is also a matter which should not be seen only as a police matter. What do people protest about? The perceived lack of service delivery for example, they want water, they want roads and so forth and therefore embark on these types of actions. Therefore a solution to that problem is not a policing intervention. It’s a different form of intervention that is required.”
He said while the trends over the past 10 years had shown a decrease in some areas, he said the year under review had shown an increase in things like contact crime. Nhleko said they continued to work to decrease crime against women and children.
Decrease over 10-year period
MPs questioned the rate of murders in the country, the management of dockets, the increase of drug trafficking in certain areas and congratulated the police on the increase in conviction rates. Freedom Front Plus MP Pieter Groenewald told the minister that crime in the country was not under control at all and asked if it was possible to get the stats on a quarterly basis to try and combat it quicker.
Nhleko insisted that there was a decrease in crime overall in the country.
“The statistics we put before you say over the 10 year period, there has been a decrease. And that is not speculation but based on the work that has been put before us. I don’t want to create a perception that there is no crime in South Africa but you cannot create an impression that there has been no decrease over the years.
“To say it’s not under control is not true. When figures to show that it is.” Another worrying trend mentioned was the increase of police killings around the country. “If society kills police, we are killing ourselves,” Nhleko said.
Phiyega said crimes against women and children remained a priority for government and for the SAPS. “In this regard I can safely say that we have a good story to tell as various efforts that we make towards reducing these crimes are beginning to pay dividends.
“When all is said and done, crime statistics are not only about numbers and the performance of the police, but a mirror reflection of the society at large. In reflecting about the figures, commentators often forget that victims are not ink on paper but human beings, real people of flesh and blood.”
SA deserves better
Democratic Alliance shadow minister of police Dianne Kohler Barnard said the national government and the SAPS are failing in the fight against crime. “Crime affects each and every one of us. We must fight crime with all means at our disposal, because the people of South Africa deserve better. They do not need to live under siege in their barricaded homes, their increasingly alarm-protected cars and their high-walled communities.”
Committee chairperson Francois Buekman said more needed to be done to curb contact crimes, as well as more responsibility taken to police gun ownership.