Crime down: Mthethwa


South Africa’s murder rate has decreased by 6.5% in the past year, dropping below the 16 000 figure to 15 940 cases of murder being recorded. The statistics — released by Minister of Police Nathi Mthethwa — formed part of the Crime Statistics Annual Report for the year April 2010 to March 2011. The figure contrasts to the 1994/95 period when 27 000 people were murdered.

Mthethwa said the drop in murders is encouraging, considering that the reduction of this type of crime was not only dependent on police, but was a societal challenge requiring a coordinated effort. “These continuous reductions in murder indicate that government is succeeding in its effort,” said Mthethwa. During the 2010/11 financial year, a 12.2% decrease in attempted murder was recorded. In 2009/10, it only decreased by 6.1%.

The decrease was not the only good news from the statistics released in Pretoria – as the country’s trio crimes — house robberies, business robberies and vehicle hijackings — have also shown a decrease of 10.7%, the state BuaNews agency says. In house robberies alone, only 16 889 cases were reported, compared with the 18 786 reported in 2009/10 year. This indicates a decrease of 10.1%.

In car hijackings, the tide seems to be turning as police reported a 23.6% decrease. Mthethwa said this was a great improvement, considering that for the last three years, this type of crime was on the increase. He said even tracker companies and the SA insurance crime bureau have indicated some sort of stability in this area. Truck drivers also had a lucky break as police recorded 29.2% decrease in truck hijacking, with only 413 cases reported.

The festive season campaign “When duty calls” was the cause of a decrease in burglaries at residential premises, said Mthethwa. He said the private sector security also complemented police efforts in fighting this crime. A 4.8% decrease was recorded compared with the 2.7% increase in the 2009/10 financial year.

But the non-residential properties, which normally include the organised business sector, particularly the small businesses, did not get lucky. They recorded an increase of 0.9% in burglaries.

Mthethwa said this was a difficult area to manage and secure because of the capacity. “Now based on this persistent challenge in smaller business, we are developing a national small business robbery strategy, which will be finalised by the end of this year and then be rolled out across the country.”

Another challenge is rape. More attention needs to be given to curb the scourge, Mthethwa says. Even though the sexual offences ratio had decreased by 3.1%, and they had been on a general decline for the past two years, the minister said he was particularly concerned about rape. “Rape increased from 55 097 to 56 272 cases and we cannot seriously say we are winning the war against rape,” Mthethwa said. Police were taking various steps to address these figures. “The re-introduction of the Family Violence, Child Protection and Sexual Offences units through the country over the past financial years provides us with the platform on which to ensure crimes against women and children are adequately addressed by police,” he said.

The minister noted that rapes were often under-reported, adding that continued efforts to improve the Criminal Justice System could result in more rapes being reported by victims. He stressed that the eradication of violence that targets women and children was one of his ministry’s key priorities.

The official opposition Democratic Alliance party says it broadly welcomes the figures. Mthethwa’s shadow, Dianne Kohler Barnard says the decrease in crime “cannot be seen out of context of the spectacularly crime-free FIFA World Cup. Certainly after the huge boost in manpower and resources for the event, this trend was to be expected. It indicates that the tactics used to decrease crime during that period, especially visible policing, must be implemented as part of normal policing strategy.”

Crime statistics are not only an important measure of crime levels, but also an indicator of how well government safety policies are managing to keep South Africans safe, she adds. “The DA advocates real-time crime statistics that are publicly available, so that tailored and localised responses can be formulated while they are still relevant. We continue to believe that this is something which the minister and his department need to give serious consideration.
“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. Special attention must also be paid to the increases in drug related crimes, and drunk driving. The SAPS has proven that when they focus on areas they see results; we hope these areas are afforded future focus.
“Last year there was the great concern of large increases in residential and non-residential robberies; however, residential robberies are down this year – so we may feel safer in our homes, and robberies at businesses seem to have stabilised.
“The fact that 98 of our SAPS members were murdered by criminals last year is extremely painful to hear, and added to that is the fact that so many SAPS members have been killed this year. At the very moment that the crime statistics were announced, two officers were shot – one dead – in Durban North. 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.”

The South African Institute of Race Relations (SAIRR) says the overall picture is positive. “Year-on-year most major crime rates expressed per 100 000 of the population are down by between five and ten percent,” deputy CE Frans Cronje says. “The murder rate for example is down 6.5% year-on-year and more importantly is down 50% since 1994. What must be remembered, however, is that it is still significantly higher than that in most other parts of the world.
“The 2003/2004 period was the peak year for many crime rates and the rates have mostly come down significantly since then,” he adds.