Stop cherry-picking crime stats

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IOL Dan Plato 2550 done (35564071)

INDEPENDENT NEWSPAPERS

Western Cape Community Safety MEC Dan Plato. File photo: Courtney Africa

John Jeffery should use the most recent crime statistics to better inform a solution-driven response, says Dan Plato.

Cape Town - Deputy Minister of Justice and Correctional Services John Jeffery’s response (“We’re winning war against crime”, June 10) refers.

Cherry-picking crime statistics from a specific period paints a false picture of the reality threatening our communities’ safety and casts doubt on the integrity of those tasked with reducing crime.

Instead, Mr Jeffery should use the most recent crime statistics for a true reflection and to better inform a solution-driven response to make our communities safer.

Between 2011/12 and 2012/13, every category referred to by Mr Jeffery shows increases nationally: Murder (4.2 percent), Attempted Murder (10.1 percent), Aggravated Robbery (4.6 percent), and property-related crimes (5.1 percent). Clearly, there was no improvement in the reduction of crime as he falsely claimed.

Drug-related crime skyrocketed in this province from 19 940 cases recorded in 2003 to 82 000 last year. Of the 1 469 murder cases from Hanover Park, Lavender Hill, Elsies River, Manenberg and Bishop Lavis that SAPS referred to the National Prosecuting Authority over the past five years, only 11.8 percent resulted in convictions. Despite this, the then national minister of police, Nathi Mthethwa, refused to reinstate the specialised drug and gang police units, and appeared to be satisfied with the low conviction for gang-related crime.

Few arrests and low conviction rates in the areas mentioned above means that many criminals will simply walk free to carry on committing crimes.

There are very real policing challenges facing the Western Cape and South Africa and politicking will not help the fight against crime.

The SAPS in the Western Cape are under severe pressure. Provincially, the police service has a shortage of 1 012 members, accounting for 61 percent of the national shortage. People are experiencing a real lack of visible policing; telling them otherwise does not fix the problem.

Without sufficient resources, training and manpower from the national government, the provincial police commissioner, General Arno Lamoer, and his service of 17 000 men and women are unable to carry out their duties effectively.

It would help if national parliamentary members, like Jeffery, could acknowledge the facts and help to address the problems.

In the Western Cape government, we are focusing on a whole-of-society approach towards increasing safety as we know that safety is not just the police’s job.

Meaningful partnerships are the key to this approach and we will continue to build on partnerships already created and build new ones where possible. We will also continue to focus on running programmes for at-risk youth and providing support to community policing forums and neighbourhood watches.

The Name and Shame campaign, a collaboration between the Western Cape government, other government departments and the media to print the names of convicted drunk-drivers publicly, has been stalled indefinitely. Jeffery’s assertion that this intervention is receiving ongoing attention smacks of lip service to a successful public-private partnership aimed at promoting responsible driving and increasing road safety awareness.

Before we can even think of winning the war on crime, we need to know what we should be combating. Releasing crime statistics on a more regular basis will help inform what type of crime is happening, where and when – empowering the province’s people and safety organisations working to protect our communities to implement solution-driven interventions.

The best way to make the people of the Western Cape safer from drugs and gangs is through targeted, sustained and specialised interventions. Specialised units have been identified as a policing need and priority for the Western Cape by the provincial cabinet. It is endorsed by former minister in the Presidency Trevor Manuel and in the National Development Plan and is necessary to tackle drugs and gangs effectively. I am encouraged that these units will be considered by Minister of Police Nkosinathi Nhleko as he has publicly stated his commitment to the NDP.

Jeffery is correct in saying that it is “about the lives of our people and the safety of our communities”.

Focusing on political battles, however, will not help win the war on crime and will not make our communities any safer. This is why following President Jacob Zuma’s announcement of his new cabinet, I wrote to Nhleko to congratulate him on his new appointment. I also included a copy of the Western Cape Community Safety Act and the Western Cape’s 2013/2014 Policing Needs and Priorities Report for the minister’s consideration when determining policing policy for this province.

The Western Cape government remains serious about making communities safer. We want to work with national government in exercising our mandate to ensure effective oversight over policing in the province. Winning the war on crime requires all role-players to play their part.

* Dan Plato is Western Cape MEC for Community Safety.

** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Newspapers.

Cape Times


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