Statistics and nasty reality
Two days after Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa announced an improving crime rate, former world boxing champion Corrie Sanders was shot as he dined.
Mthethwa described murder as one of the most reliable trends of crime statistics. It was down 3.1 percent from the previous year. Then the heavyweight boxer was shot while shielding his daughter from the three gunmen who had barged into a Brits restaurant as they celebrated a nephew’s 21st birthday.
Sanders was shot as he lay on the floor. His renown, and the savagery of the crime, damaged police efforts to portray a turning tide. Not even the smoothest statistical presentation or the best argument could counter such an act. His killing would not be just another statistic.
Mthethwa and police generals were reporting fewer contact crimes – murder, attempted murder, sexual offences, grievous assault, common assault, aggravated robbery and common robbery.
Then, as if to further contradict the statistics for 2011/12, MP Dianne Kohler Barnard was involved in a carjacking at her Morningside home on Tuesday night. Again, misfortune for a prominent person – the opposition watchdog on police, of all people – effectively poured water on the statistical flicker of hope.
According to the statistics, carjacking had decreased from 12 434 incidents eight years ago to 9 475. In KwaZulu-Natal, it had declined from 2 703 to 2 229.
Also on Tuesday, a Durban North woman who was grabbed was kept in the boot of her car while her hijackers waited for a new day so that they could draw more cash on her bank card.
On Friday night, a hijacked Chatsworth mother was blindfolded and held for 16 hours before being pushed out of the vehicle.
Kohler Barnard said at the release of the crime statistics that they would not make citizens feel safer. That remark was almost prophetic for her, and will surely resonate with all.