Police probing murder figures: report

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The police are conducting a countrywide investigation into the validity of crime statistics, particularly inquest and murder dockets.

The Sunday Times reports a task team led by Gauteng police commissioner Lieutenant General Mzwandile Petros was ordered to urgently analyse the 31 253 inquest dockets opened countrywide in the year to March this year. The probe will reveal if police stations filed deaths incorrectly under “inquest” instead of “murder”.

The paper says the investigation follows damning instances of crime statistics manipulation uncovered in KwaZulu-Natal and the Western Cape, where police stations recorded serious crimes as less important incidents to meet key performance indicators and make it look as if they were winning the war on crime.

Police investigate all cases of unnatural death, and decide whether to treat them as murder or inquest dockets. Murder dockets are sent to the director of public prosecutions to decide whether to prosecute. Correspondence sent to provincial commissioners expressed “concern” about inquest dockets. “The concern particularly derives from the circumstances under which either inquest, murder or culpable homicide dockets are opened.”

Inquest statistics had been rising and murder statistics falling in the past few years. They include:
* 29464 inquests in 2007/08 and 18487 murders;
* 30558 inquests in 2008/09 and 18148 murders;
* 31265 inquests in 2009/10 and 16834 murders;



Police spokesman Colonel Vishnu Naidoo said: “General Cele has not given such instructions as suggested in your inquiry. However, management decisions have been taken to enhance our operational capacity and these will remain internal decisions. Also, such decisions are internal operational matters that should not be put out in the public domain.”