Police minister Nathi Mthethwa says the incidence of crimes such as murder, assault and rape are down, but other offences, including theft, robbery and drunken driving have increased over the period April 1 last year to March 31. Mthethwa today released the country’s annual crime statistics. The opposition Democratic Alliance party expressed itself cautiously optimistic at the figures.
The statistics do not include figures for the June-July soccer World Cup, during which police say the incidence of crime fell sharply. The actual extent of this will only emerge next September when this financial year’s figures are released.
Mthethwa also noted that the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigations (DPCI), otherwise known as ‘The Hawks’ arrested 46 of an unspecified 50 top criminal suspects “thus cracking the backbone of major crime syndicates” and scoring “successes in a number of fields in their short existence.” The Hawks were established last year when the Directorate of Special Operations of the National Prosecuting Authority and the police’s commercial crimes unit were merged.
“Contact crime currently accounts for 32% of all crimes,” Mthethwa says. “It is also this form of crime with which violence is normally associated. We are therefore encouraged by the decrease in various contact crime types which occurred during 2009/10 fiscal.
Decrease in Murder
“In this regard, we are really encouraged in the significant decline in the murder rate, where we have seen the third largest decrease since 1995. For the first time in the history of SAPS the murder figure fell below the 17 000 mark compared to 26 877 in 1995/1996 fiscal year.
“Murder decreased by 8.6% in the past fiscal year, that is 2009/2010. This is a significant achievement given that murder is the most reliable crime category in crime stats. Of all the crimes this is the one category you cannot easily cheat. In other words, the fact that such a crime is counted based on the actual bodies makes it more reliable.
“We are also encouraged by the number of arrests that have taken place that are associated with this type of crime, which is 11 834 arrests. This has actually bolstered our resolve in fighting crime. We would endeavour to do more to reduce this figure even further,” Mthethwa said at a media conference in Pretoria.
Decrease in Attempted Murder
He added that the incidence of attempted murder decreased by 6.1%, while reported cases resulted in 7062 arrests.
Decrease in Sexual Offences
“Equally, we have seen a decrease in sexual offences by 4.4% between 2008/2009 and 2009/2010. This resulted in 26 311 arrests [sic]. We view this positively and if we can do more, we will be able to achieve even more success. We believe that the reintroduction of specialised units such the Family Violence, Child Protection and Sexual Offences (FCS) will contribute to decreasing this even further.
“To this end we want to emphasise the point we have been making, that families and communities need to break the silence in such crimes; by not protecting people who are hurting and harming women and children. Research points out that crimes such as rape, assault and [assault with the intent to commit grievous bodily harm] (GBH) take place amongst acquaintances, but then at times the victims are suppressed from reporting such crimes, socially, culturally and other reasons that are advanced.
“To us, not reporting this kind of crime equally constitutes commitment of crime by those who shadow [sic] and harbour the perpetrators. This is also a very difficult area for police to deal with, because as we say it occurs in ‘closed doors’ and amongst acquaintances.”
Decrease in Grievous Bodily Harm
“Assault with the intent to inflict grievous bodily harm marginally decreased by 0.5% between 2008/2009 and 2009/2010,” the minister said. “As government, while we recognise and welcome this marginal decrease, we shall strive to ensure that we improve by fostering partnerships with different stakeholders, community-driven programmes, NGOs and other government departments.”
Decrease in Aggravated Robbery
“One of the priority crimes that continues to instill fear amongst ordinary South Africans is that of aggravated robbery. We are pleased that this is showing considerable decrease, particularly with regard to common and street robberies and hijackings.
“During this fiscal year, robbery with aggravating circumstances decreased by 7.5% between 2008/2009 and 2009/2010. While we recognize that there are some forms of aggravated robbery in particular house and small business robberies which have not shown the targeted decline, we are pleased with the decrease. We believe that some of our initiatives that have been introduced including the war rooms, profiling of most wanted suspects and the introduction of Tactical Response Teams have gone some way in stabilising these crimes. It is the first time since 2005 that these crimes have begun to stabilise.”
Decrease in Cash-In-Transit Robbery
“The cash-in-transit robbery decreased by 7.3% between 2008/2009 and 2009/2010, resulting in 52 arrests [sic]. This is one amongst many areas, where our intelligence work in partnership with various stakeholders has proven to be essential in the fight against crime,” Mthethwa says.
Decrease in Bank Robbery
Bank robbery decreased by 8.8% between 2008/2009 and 2009/2010, whie reported instances resulted in 38 arrests. “In this area, information-sharing amongst all other partners has played a crucial role in contributing to this decrease. We shall continue to foster these partnerships to ensure that we remain ahead of the criminals.”
Decrease in Public or Street Robbery
Public or street robbery decreased by 10.4% during the last fiscal, while the investigation of reported cases resulted in 9552 arrests. “We can attribute this decrease to extremely high levels of police visibility which we maintained at various communities. We can also not overlook the important partnerships with community policing forums that dedicate their lives, patriotically commit themselves to helping police fight crime.”
Decrease in carjacking and truckjacking
Carjacking decreased by 6.8% between 2008/2009 and 2009/2010, says Mthethwa and policing resulted in 2352 arrests. “In the previous fiscal from April 2008 to March 2010, there were 14 915 cases or carjacking and during the 2009 to 2010 the figure was 13 902. Truckjacking decreased by 1.7% between 2008/2009 and 2009/2010, resulting in 140 arrests [sic]. To a large degree, such successes are achieved through our cooperation with some of the neighbouring SADC countries.”
Increase in Burglary at Residential Premises
On the debit side, home burglaries have increased. “During the 2009/10 festive season we launched ‘Operation Duty Calls.’ As part of this campaign the department embarked on various policing operations countrywide, interacting with communities, business and various organised structures with an objective of intensifying our fight against crime.
“For the first time this year this type of crime is stabilising since it has been increasing at an alarming rate over the past five years, within an average of 25%. Burglary at residential premises ratio increased by 2.7%.
“To address this challenge, we have taken several proactive steps, including the appointment of the chairperson of Private Security Industry Regulatory Authority (PSIRA) … to further complement this industry’s cooperation with police. We further want to emphasise that communities must also cooperate with police to ensure we keep our homes safe against heartless criminals. We must undertake to ensure that our society changes for better and that our freedom as a nation is advanced, not undermined.”
Increase in robbery at non-residential premises
“Robbery at non-residential premises increased by 4.4% for the past fiscal. On these robberies police managed to arrest 3342 criminals. Again here, there has always been a sharp increase but this financial year, we are starting to experience stabilisation in this area as well.”
Decreases in robbery at “Big Businesses”
“Whilst there may have been increases in non-residential premises, we are further gratified to note that in almost all major business sectors, there has been significant decrease in robberies,” Mthethwa said.
“This would include the banking sector, cash-in-transits [sic], major retailers notably 51% decline [sic], 11% decline at shopping malls, 25% within the petroleum industries (petrol stations), tourism sector as well as 18% decline for post offices. This is encouraging because these industries had been negatively affected in the past few years,” the minister said.
Increase in Commercial Crime
“One area of crime, commercial crime continues to show a marked increase,” lamented Mthethwa. “The commercial crime ratio increased by 8.1% between 2008/2009 and 2009/2010. We have had discussions with both business people and some of our international counterparts. It is clear that this form of crime is on the increase globally. We are participating in forums both at a local and international level focusing on this particular crime.”
Increase in Stock Theft
Also up is stock theft. “Last year, we identified the increase in stock theft as a problem which needed our focused attention. We are concerned that this trend has not been stemmed. The stock-theft ratio increased by 6.5% during the past fiscal. We have already earlier this year and prior to the release of the crime stats, begun work on a number of initiatives including engaging with some of the worst affected communities, reviewing the operation of our stock theft units and well looking at legislative interventions,” the minister said.
Police detection rate of illegal firearms and ammunition
“Crimes heavily dependent on police action for detection include illegal possession of firearms and ammunition. We have noticed an increase of 2.4% between 2008/2009 and 2009/2010. While we remain concerned at the number of police firearms that are lost, subsequently we have introduced various measures to ensure we curb these losses. This includes the introduction of an Integrated Ballistic Testing system at police stations. During the last fiscal, we have recovered 61.6% or stolen or lost firearms. We shall be tightening the systems to ensure we improve on this percentage,” the minister said.
“We firmly believe that once we correlate the figures for next year, where the bulk of the firearms amnesty figures will be included, it will show an even greater increase in the recovery of firearms.”
“We are encouraged that crimes that are heavily dependent on police action such as drug possession and alcohol related crimes have shown an increase as this increase speaks to improved police detection of such crimes,” the minister said.
“Over the last year, we have engaged with a significant number of communities that are affected by the abuse of drugs and we all recognise that addressing this issue requires an integrated approach. Police have increased their ratio of apprehending people in drug-related crime by 13.6% between 2008/2009 and 2009/2010.
“In some of the communities, with which we continuously engage, we have been able to subsequently record significant successes. The increase in drug detection, whilst reflects a positive trend, also concerns us because it could also speak to an increase in the availability of drugs in the country.”
Increase in cases of Drunken Driving
Mthethwa also lamented an increase in the arrest of citizens driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, by a ratio of 10.6% between 2008/2009 and 2009/2010. “Government led campaigns such as Arrive Alive are critical in creating awareness and promoting safe and responsible driving, but more can still be done,” he said.
More broadly, Mthethwa said crime statistics “always give us a sober assessment of the state of crime and how far we have come in making the country safer. … The drop in various crime categories compared to the last fiscal in general is satisfactory. … It remains our firm and achievable belief that while there is still significant work to be done in ensuring our people are and feel safe, we have shown that we are certainly up to the task and are capable of addressing the challenges that lie ahead.”
Mthethwa’s DA shadow says the statistics “show incremental improvements across the board, so South Africans have room to be cautiously optimistic.” Dianne Kohler Barnard says crime “is something which affects each and every South African and a decrease in crime is obviously something to be welcomed. Crime statistics, which are released annually, provide an important assessment of how well the government is managing to keep South Africans safe.
“South Africans have felt safer in the World Cup year than they have for some time. When the stats for next year are released, the SAPS special measures during the tournament may translate into even greater measurable outcomes and demonstrate the efficacy of specifically visible policing when safety is a non-negotiable priority of government.
“The SAPS have made important strides, especially in contact crimes. In 2009/2010, 2.1 million crimes were reported. The murder rate is down by a significant 8.6%, this is the first time this decade that the murder rate is below the 18 000 mark. … Worryingly, residential burglaries have once again increased by 2.7%, having increased by 27% the previous year. This means that South Africans are unfortunately less safe in their homes than they were the previous year.
“The rate of increase in these crimes as well as robberies at business premises is a great deal lower than the previous financial year, however, the total continues to rise. This is coupled with an unfortunate increase at business premises robberies, which are up by 4.4% having increased by 41% the previous year,” Kohler Barnard said.
“We commend all the brave men and women in the SAPS for their efforts to keep South Africa safe. We also proffer our heartfelt condolences to the families and friends of the 110 police officers who died in the course of duty. The successful hosting and drop in crime over the Fifa World Cup will probably allow for an even lower crime rate in the next financial year. We await the release of the SAPS annual report in order to properly evaluate the full extent of the crime statistics for 2009/2010.”