Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa has said violent crime declined last year in SA, with murders down 8.6%. 'The murder figure fell below the 17 000 mark, compared to 26 877 in the 1995-1996
fiscal year,' Mthethwa said.
'We are really encouraged in the significant decline in the murder rate. Of all crimes this is one category that you cannot cheat,' he said. According to a Mail & Guardian Online report, the crime statistics report covered the year ending in March, and showed violent crime generally was on the decline, with attempted murders down by 6.1% and sexual offences down by 4.4%. A total of 26 311 people were arrested in connection with sexual crimes. He said the reintroduction of specialised units such as the Family Violence, Child Protection and Sexual Offences units would contribute to decreasing this even further. The overall drop in several crime categories was 'satisfactory', but more needed to be done, he noted. The number of cash-in-transit heists fell 7.3%, resulting in 52 arrests. Bank robberies decreased 8.8%, while car and truck hijacking saw a 6.8% decline.
Full Mail & Guardian Online report
There was a significant decline to 10.4% in public or street robberies and 9 552 arrests were made, says a BuaNews report. 'We can attribute this decrease to extremely high levels of police visibility which we maintained at various communities,' Mthethwa said. Partnerships with community policing forums had also contributed to the positive figures in the terms of street robberies. Mthethwa noted that there was a 51% decline of robberies at major retailers, an 11% decline at shopping malls, 25% decline at petrol stations and an 18% decline at post offices. However, a 2.7% increase in burglaries at resident premises was recorded, Mthethwa said. He attributed the decline and stabilising of these crimes to initiatives police have introduced such as War Rooms, the profiling of the most wanted suspects and the introduction of Tactical Response Teams.
Full BuaNews report
South Africans have room to be cautiously optimistic, the DA said yesterday. A report on the News24 site quotes DA spokesperson Dianne Kohler-Barnard who said 'crime is something which affects each and every South African and a decrease in crime is obviously something to be welcomed'. South Africans had felt safer in the World Cup year than they had for some time. The police force had made important strides, especially in contact crimes, Kohler-Barnard said.
Full report on the News24 site
The IFP commended the police, but said that more still needed to be done. 'We welcome the downward trend in all of the major crimes,' IFP'spokesperson on police Velaphi Ndlovu is quoted as saying in a report in The Citizen. 'It shows that the SAPS' immense efforts to combat crime, and its efforts to keep South Africa a safe place for both locals and tourists, have paid off. The IFP believes that special commendation must go to the SAPS for the significant decrease in SA's murder rate.' However, Ndlovu said the IFP was concerned at what seemed to be a steady upward trend in burglaries at homes and business premises.
Full report in The Citizen
See also a report in Die Burger
But not everybody is convinced. Independent stakeholders have questioned the reliability of the statistics, saying they can be manipulated to create a good image of the police. The Witness reports the head of the Crime and Justice Programme at the Institute for Security Studies, Gareth Newham, says the statistics do not give a true reflection of the level of crime in SA. He says the police have a history of being dishonest when it comes to statistics. 'At least the Justice cluster should be the one dealing with the stats, because police are not independent in this case,' he says. Newham is also concerned that releasing the statistics once a year does not reflect the current crime rate. David Bruce, from the Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation, says only murder statistics could possibly be relied on because police and forensic investigators prioritise such a crime. 'Other violent crimes such as attempted murder, assault with GBH and common assault are not always recorded on computer systems,' he says. Independent crime and violence monitor Mary de Haas has called for an independent body to collect crime statistics.
Full report in The Witness (subscription needed)
How the provinces stack up
All the crime statistics
National Police Commissioner Bheki Cele put the improvement down to higher morale in the police. According to a Beeld report, he explained that he signed between 10 and 15 applications by personnel wishing to leave the police force per month last year. This year, however, he signed the first application in August. Cele also made the point that more than 4 000 former police members want to re-join the force. He made reference to the controversial Section 49 of the Criminal Procedures Act, saying police officials should not die when an emergency situation emerges. 'There is no 'shoot to kill' policy in the police, but police officials must use their equipment in accordance with the law to protect people,' he is quoted as saying.
Full Beeld report
Safety in rural areas is back on the agenda and specialist police units for these areas will be reinstated by March next year, says a Beeld report. The new safety plan follows meetings between Mthethwa, organised agriculture and trade unions representing farm workers. Agri SA's André Botha said his organisation was still awaiting a legal opinion from the police on whether reservists will be allowed to use police weapons and take them home. And since reservists use their own vehicles for patrols, the police's legal department still has to indicate whether police will take responsibility for damage to these vehicles that occurs while reservists are on duty.
Full Beeld report