One of the biggest improvements noted in the crime statistics for the 2010/11 financial year was a significant decline in bank robberies, Minister of Police Nathi Mthethwa has announced. Bank robberies decreased by a massive 58.1%, with just 39 cases recorded in the 2010/11 fiscal year, as opposed to the 93 cases recorded in the 2009/2010 financial year.
The minister attributed this success to coordinated efforts between police and businesses. Mthethwa was also pleased with the statistics for cash-in-transit heists, which showed an 18.7% decline. The arrest of key criminals involved in bank and cash-in-transit robberies, coupled with the police’s rapid response, had yielded these results, he added.
Allowing photographs of criminals wanted for these crimes to be published had also led to arrests and contributed to the decrease. However, Mthethwa expressed concern over ATM bombings, which had increased by 61.5%. Most of these blasts took place in Gauteng, which accounted for 57.1% for ATM bombings, followed by North West with 12.4%.
“Some of these trends are informed by migration and displacement of crime from one province to another, but we are beginning to intensify our operations in some of these hard-hit provinces,” he said. Despite the massive increase in ATM bombings, the minister noted that there were also some successes.
“According to SABRIC [South African Banking Risk Information Centre], this form of crime has started to decline with a 17% decline in ATM robberies since April 2011, compared with the same period last year,” Mthethwa added. The crime statistics also indicated an increase in the commercial crime ratio by 2.8%.
The minister noted that commercial crime was not a South African problem but a global challenge, adding that police hoped to partner with their international counterparts to improve the way in which this type of crime is dealt with locally.
The levels of “contact crimes” in South Africa have also decreased, Mthethwa said. They are down 6.9%. There was a decrease in all the provinces, except for the North West and Western Cape. According to Mthethwa, all seven categories of contact crime with reference to murder, attempted murder, sexual offences and assault with serious grievous bodily harm, common assault, aggravated robbery and common robbery, recorded a decline.
Murder was down by 6.5% and sexual offences by 3.1%. Assault with intent to inflict grievous bodily harm dropped by 4.5%, while robbery with aggravating circumstances was down by 12%. The figures were drawn from April 2010 to March 2011. Mthethwa said although they have recorded a decrease, the figures were still worrying. “Contact crime is an area of crime which by its nature leads to serious feelings of fear and insecurity, because it is this form of crime [with] which violence is normally associated.”
He said it seemed people have not taken the “don’t drink and drive” motto seriously, as there had been an increase in drunken driving cases. They were up by 3.5%. In the 2009/10 year, it was up by 10.6%. Mthethwa said it was the duty of all South Africans to abide by the rules of the road. “We all have a duty to ensure that our roads are safe and those who break the law will be severely punished.”
There was also an increase in drug related crimes as they increased by 10.2%. Mthethwa said they will be intensifying their approaches by mounting operations that are aimed at cracking the backbone of drug-lord syndicates instead of focusing and arresting people. He said they will also be working with their sister departments, such as education and social development, in addressing the challenge and affected children. “We also acknowledge that dealing with drugs is a global challenge that needs to be coordinated with our international counterparts,” he said.
Although the stats showed a general decrease in all crimes, Mthethwa said the fight is not over, adding that it is just a motivating factor for their efforts. “Victory against crime is now an achievable goal. However, for as long as young children are still under bondage of crime and drugs, for as long as businesses are robbed, for as long as women are abused and raped, for as long as South Africans are mugged and hijacked — none of us must rest.”
Political parties and business organisations have welcomed the significant decrease in most categories of crime. While they welcomed the significant decreases in some crimes, the groups also called on government not to relent in the fight against crime.
Business against Crime SA (BAC) was among the first organisations to respond to the statistics, saying the drop in serious crime was the consequence of systematic improvements in the criminal justice system and improved policing. BAC CE Graham Wright said government’s partnerships with both civil society and business had also had an impact on crime. While he acknowledged that much still needed to be done, Wright said it was clear the country was moving in the right direction.
Systematic improvements in visible policing, crime detection and response, and steps by business to improve security, had a direct impact on the level of business robberies and burglaries, he added.
The Democratic Alliance said while it still needed to study the statistics more closely, the broadly positive trend was welcomed. “The decrease in almost all crimes, including contact crimes such as murder, attempted murder and sexual offences is welcomed. However, the fact that rape is up to over 56 000 rapes per annum, added to a massive increase in ATM bombings – some 61.5% – is of concern,” the DA’s shadow minister of police, Dianne Kohler Barnard, said.
She also called for more attention to be given to drug related crime and drunk driving, both of which had increased. “All the brave men and women in SAPS must be commended for their efforts to keep South Africa safe. These results show that their efforts can and do achieve results,” Barnard added.
The Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) said the statistics showed that South Africa was slowly making headway in successfully dealing with the country’s high crime levels. The decrease in the murder rate, as well as the decline in car-jackings, attempted murder and house burglaries was welcomed progress, it added. However, the IFP expressed shock at massive increase in ATM robberies and called on government to urgently create a plan of action to deal with this crime.
“Despite the improvements in our crime levels, our war against crime is far from over. South Africa’s crime levels remain high. One person raped, assaulted, hijacked or murdered is one too many. We must continue to intensify our fight against the lawless elements within our society, and we are hopeful that next year’s figures will show more significant reductions in all levels of crime,” it added.