Drug crime stats spike due to police action

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The South African Institute of Race Relations (SAIRR) says there has been a 155% increase in reported drug-related crime since 1994 – but it says this is because of more police activity around drugs – rather than simply an increase in people using drugs.

The thinktank says there were 45 928 drug-related crime cases in the government financial year 1994/5 versus 117 172 in FY2008/09.

The SAIRR says drug-related crimes are heavily dependent on police action for detection. There is often no victim, so it is less likely that such crimes will be reported.
“People take illegal substances as a form of recreation, or because they are addicted, but unless they then engage in another form of criminal activity, their actions do not usually result in arrest,” the nongovernmental research body adds.

This differentiates drug-related crime from crimes such as assault or theft where there is a direct victim who is likely to report the crime. There may be tip-offs about drug activity in some cases but even these require police follow-up. Police action is crucial to uncover drug-related crime, the thinktank adds.

The Western Cape had the highest rate of drug-related crime, 1003 crimes per 100 000 people with the number of cases increasing from 12 252 in 1994/95 to 52 781 in 2008/09.

KwaZulu-Natal recorded 236 cases. Limpopo had the lowest rate at 63 per 100 000 and Mpumalanga is the only province to show a decrease in both the number of cases and the rate of drug-related crime over the period.

Other crime categories heavily dependent on police action for detection are drunk driving and illegal possession of firearms, which have also shown an increase.

Drunken driving cases increased by 118.5% and cases of illegal possession of firearms or ammunition by 28% from 1994/95 and 2008/09, the SAIRR says.