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Cape Town - It has been labelled the worst year of crime for South Africa in the past decade. And nowhere has the sudden rise been more evident than in the Western Cape.
According to the crime statistics for the 2012/13 financial year released by the SAPS on Thursday, the Western Cape recorded a 10-percent increase in violent crimes, as murder, robberies and assaults rose to new heights.
A terrifying total of 2 580 people were murdered in the province over the past year, amounting to just more than seven murders a day.
And while the Western Cape recorded dramatic spikes in its crime levels, it still trails behind Gauteng, the Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal when it comes to murders. KwaZulu-Natal is still the most violent province, with over 3 600 murders committed there. The Eastern Cape recorded 3 344 murders, and Gauteng came in at 2 997.
Nyanga retained its title of South Africa’s murder capital, with just over 260 murders reported in the past year, an average of one every 36 hours or so.
Screwdrivers, knives, pangas and scissors – some with dried blood still visible on them – are just some of the weapons police confiscate from the Nyanga township on an almost daily basis.
Not only is the Cape Town police precinct the most dangerous area in South Africa; but six of the country’s most violent neighbourhoods are in the Western Cape.
The highest number of murders for the 2012/13 financial year were recorded in the following areas:
1. Nyanga, Western Cape - 262
2. Inanda, Kwazulu-Natal - 170
3. Khayelitsha, Western Cape - 168
4. Mthatha, Eastern Cape - 145
5. Harare, Western Cape -132
6. Gugulethu, Western Cape - 129
7. Umlazi, Kwazulu-Natal - 122
8. Kraaifontein, Western Cape - 121
9. KwaMashu E, Kwazulu-Natal - 120
10. Delft, Western Cape - 113
On Thursday, Nyanga’s Community Policing Forum (CPF) chairman Sandile Martin summarised the profile of a typical murder victim and killer – he said the two had the same demographic.
“He is a young man, between the ages of 18 and 30. Often he is unemployed. These murders happen at the weekend, and usually occur at illegal shebeens or elsewhere after a lot of alcohol has been consumed.”
While the murder rate has been steadily declining for the past 10 years, Minister of Police Nathi Mthethwa announced on Thursday that there had been a 0.6 percent increase nationwide this past year.
This, coupled with spikes in the number of robberies, burglaries and hijackings taking place nationally, has prompted the Institute for Security Studies to brand this year’s statistics as the worst in the past decade.
“Seeing this continued increase in robberies, burglaries and hijackings – which are all policeable crimes – it is clear we need a new crime reduction strategy,” said institute researcher Lauren Tracey.
This was why the statistics needed to be released on a monthly basis, so the police and public could monitor and formulate a response to crimes before they were out of control, she added.
As an example, hijackings in the province had risen by 31percent, from 542 to 789 this past year.
Robberies increased by 14 percent and house burglaries jumped from 1 344 to 1 647 reported incidents.
In the case of burglary, Mitchells Plain was the worst affected area – reporting just more than 1 700 incidents.
Stellenbosch was also among the top five burglary hot spots, recording an overall increase in burglaries and a 35-percent increase in home invasions. Table View and Durbanville recorded similar spikes in break-ins.
Mthethwa attempted to temper the dramatic increase in violent crime by offering a few success stories.
Most notably there was a significant drop in the number of kidnappings and cases of child abuse.
In the Western Cape there was also a 15-percent decrease in the number of people reported driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
Nationally, sexual crimes recorded a 0.4 percent decrease, while in the Western Cape the number of reported sex crimes dropped from 9 153 to 8 776.
But the Medical Research Council’s Gender and Health Unit director Rachel Jewkes said the change was negligible: “Since 1996, the number of rapes has remained fairly constant.”
She said the representation of rape statistics in the country was flawed because, under the category of sexual crimes, rape was lumped together with non-violent crimes such as prostitution.
“It is clear that the government is unable to properly deal with the problem of rape in SA.”
Mitchells Plain is notoriously plagued by sexual crimes, but the area recorded a 12-percent decrease in reported crimes this year. It still tops the list, with 418 sexual crimes.