Following a lull in criminal activity during the hard national COVID-19 lockdown, figures began to rise as restrictions were eased between July and September.
This much is illustrated by the quarter two crime statistics of the 2020/2021 financial year, released by Police Minister Bheki Cele on Friday.
The latest figures are a stark contrast to low crime statistics the Minister released in August for the first quarter of the financial year.
“The decreases were largely attributed to the fact that the country was at the time under lockdown level 4 and 3. People stayed at home and there were more boots on the ground,” Cele said.
He said law enforcement was aware that the “rosy picture” would not last forever, as the country opened up for business again.
The figures, said Cele, are demonstrative of a country that is enjoying fewer restrictions under the Disaster Management Act.
In the period under review, 5 107 people were murdered in the country.
“This meant 339 less people were killed, compared to the same period last year. This is also the lowest figure for the past four 2nd quarters from 2017/18 to date,” said the Minister.
From a sample of 4 290 murder dockets, analysis revealed that 1 992 of the murders occurred in public spaces such as beaches, parks, streets or open fields.
“Over 900 people were killed in their homes or the homes of those who ended their lives. Alarmingly, arguments and misunderstandings remain the main drivers of murder,” the statistics reveal.
Robberies, vigilantism and gang conflicts also feature high on the list of some of the causes of murder.
During the three months, the Minister said alcohol continued to have a negative effect on the country’s communities.
“These crime statistics we are releasing today continue to vindicate our actions as the SAPS to clamp down on illegal alcohol trading.”
The figures show the consumption and abuse of alcohol is a causative factor in hundreds of murder cases recorded in the second quarter.
Liquor, Cele said, was also involved in 829 assault GBH [grievous bodily harm] cases and 747 rape cases, while 179 attempts of murder were alcohol induced.
“Over 1 000 incidents of murder, attempted murder, rape and assault took place inside or outside liquor outlets such as bars, taverns, shebeens and nightclubs,” Cele said, adding that the figures “make it impossible to deny the true effects of alcohol abuse”.
With the festive season on the horizon, Cele said criminals are trying to make up for the time lost during the ‘crime holiday’ experienced in the first quarter of the financial year.
“This is demonstrated by the increase in the country’s most feared crimes, which are residential robberies,” he said.
The Minister said it was encouraging to see that the third leg of the so-called trio crimes is also showing a decrease of 1.6%.
The scramble to ‘catch up’ by criminals is also reflecting in the rise of cash-in-transit heist figures.
“It is clear armed gangs targeting cash vans, are becoming more desperate and ruthless as the year comes to a close.
“These criminals are stopping at nothing to carry out their criminal acts, often doing so in public spaces near innocent bystanders,” said Cele.
He assured the country that the SAPS is not taking the brazen criminal acts lightly, saying they have already made breakthroughs in taking down syndicates and recouping some of the stolen money.
Cele said it was encouraging that the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation (the Hawks) continues to make inroads by cornering and taking down the gangs.
On stock theft, Cele said this remained a serious problem that needs serious attention from multiple government departments.
In the three months of reporting, there were 7 339 cases of stock theft countrywide.
About 26 322 sheep were stolen in the last three months.
“Over 14 000 cattle were also stolen and found themselves in abattoirs and on to the plates of unsuspecting South Africans. This crime has also recorded a decrease in all provinces, except for the Northern Cape,” said Cele.
The Minister used the occasion to salute police officers for serving with “honour and diligence”.
“I believe there is a war against our officers of the law and we must be ready for the fight,” he said, urging that this form of attack on the State should not deter the SAPS.