The government has appointed more than two thousand detectives and 150 judicial officials as part of its efforts to fight crime and says the number of ‘trio’ crimes, involving business and house robberies as well as hijackings, is decreasing.
The Justice, Crime Prevention and Security ministers said earlier this week that the government’s Seven Point Plan for improving the criminal justice system is progressing and the capacity and effectiveness of the police is improving. In 2010 the police appointed 2 396 general detectives and brought the total detective establishment to 22 687. A total of 4 993 recruits reported for training at various colleges in January this year. In addition, all members of the police service will be introduced to basic detective work.
The number of prosecutors also went up last year as 41 judges and 107 magistrates were appointed to relieve pressure points. The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) appointed 83 prosecutors; and Legal Aid South Africa made 93 appointments.
In order to turn the situation around on case backlogs, the government appointed 56 regional magistrates and 17 district court magistrates on contract. They have been deployed in the backlog courts to give backlog cases a focused attention so that those cases are finalized without further delays.
A total of 56 additional Regional Courts and 17 Districts Courts finalized 10 022 cases in the first half of this financial year. There were at the end of November 2010 in total 35 909 backlog cases (17.8%) at all court levels. The backlog target was to reduce the 42 682 backlogs in 2008/09 to 38 414 in 2014. As that target has been met, new targets will be set during 2011.
There has been an improvement in the number of cases finalized. There were 233 659 cases finalized in the first 6 months of 2010, compared to 232 776 cases finalized in the corresponding period in 2009. A positive clearance ratio of 7.1% was managed by the Lower and High Courts in 2010.
Other progress made in the fight against crime was highlighted by the fact that 1 385 new vehicles were deployed to rural areas over the last two years as part of the government’s Rural Safety Plan. According to Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa, “the aim is to build at least 103 police stations throughout the country and the major target here is the rural areas. When we talk of rural areas, we look at this broadly, it includes the farms, and it includes the areas like villages and so on.”
To better provide care for and support to the victims of crime, the number of Thuthuzela Care Centres has increased from 17 to 22 in the current financial year. The Police are also increasing the number of victim-friendly rooms at all the police stations country-wide. At the end of the second quarter of 2010, there were 866 such victim-friendly facilities already in place country-wide.
Earlier this month Jacob Zuma in his state of the nation address said the country’s target for the reduction of violent crimes was between 7% and 10% per year and that while this target was often met, more needed to be done.
The ministers said that progress was being made with regard to the feared trio crimes. “The trio crimes…we are making inroads in the fight against crime here,” Mthethwa said.
“We have set a target to increase the trio crime detection rate from 13.5% to 34% by 2014,” said Justice Minister Jeff Radebe. “A 24% increase in the finalisation of trio crime cases was achieved in 2010. Of the 276 trio crime cases that were finalised, 239 resulted in convictions, translating into a staggering 86,6% conviction rate.”
Opposition parties like the DA have criticised Radebe’s “staggering” conviction rate as representing less than 1% of incidents of that category of crime. The 2009-10 annual report of the South African Police Service (SAPS) revealed there were 18 786 robberies at residential premises and 5 458 arrests, 13 902 carjackings and 2 352 arrests and 14 534 robberies at business premises with 3 342 arrests.
The total number of aggravated robberies as well as carjackings amounted to 113 755 incidents in 2009/2010, down from 121 392 in 2008/2009. These incidents fall under the aggravated robbery category and do not include the 57 537 cases of common robbery recorded in 2009/2010. Of the 113 755 cases of aggravated robbery in 2009/2010, arrests were made in 18.4% of cases, according to police statistics.
When asked how the 86.6% conviction rate for the 45 000 trio crimes could be claimed when 239 convictions were obtained from tens of thousands of reported cases, Mthethwa said the statistics showed “inroads are being made”, Business Day reports.
Democratic Alliance police spokesperson Dianne Kohler Barnard criticised the figures, saying, “How dare they hold a briefing to announce such a spectacular failure? It is a national embarrassment that they cannot even successfully prosecute those cases that they cherry pick. The 239 cases prosecuted makes up less than 1% of the total number of trio crimes. They should hang their heads in shame.”
During 2009/2010, the SAPS registered a total of 2 121 887 serious crimes in South Africa. Of these, 31.9% were contact crimes and 26.1% were property-related crimes.
Some other figures from the 2009/2010 crime statistics: