Metro police search two suspected pickpockets after a supporter’s phone was stolen in Loop Street. Picture: David Ritchie/African News Agency(ANA)
Cape Town - Failure of the police to attend to street robberies meant that criminals who committed these crimes often graduated to more violent crimes like hijackings and home robberies, according to researchers at the Institute for Security Studies (ISS) .

Researchers Lizette Lancaster and Stuart Mbanyele said that while the media tended to focus on South Africa's high-profile robberies - cash-in-transit heists, mall robberies and house robberies - the far larger problem of street robbery was mostly ignored, even by law enforcement.

Lancaster said that policing strategies could go a long way towards preventing that type of crime.

She said street robberies affected more people than other types of robbery in the country, and had been soaring for seven years.

According to the latest police crime statistics for April 2018 to March 2019, 140032 cases of aggravated (or serious, armed) robbery were recorded.

Lancaster said most of those armed attacks (57%) could be described as street robberies - perpetrated against people walking in the streets or other public places.

Mbanyele said the police did not distinguish that type of robbery from others, rendering street robbery largely invisible in their statistics.

“This is despite the police receiving reports of 80215 street robberies - an average of 220 a day - in 2018/19.

“The types of aggravated robbery that the police instead focus and report on are car-jacking, truck-jacking, house and business robberies, and bank and cash-in-transit robberies. These six classifications make up 43% of all aggravated robberies reported to the police,” Mbanyela said.

Community Safety MEC Albert Fritz said: “Aggravated street robberies resulted in 129 murders and 236 attempted murders in 2018/19.”

He added that according to the Western Cape police annual report for 2018/19, 17201 aggravated street robberies were reported in the 2018/19 year, which was a slight increase (0.1%) from the previous year. Firearms were used in 47.4% of aggravated street robberies, and knives and sharp instruments used in the remainder.

“Effective strategies to combat street robberies would include targeted patrols and increased visibility by the police, law enforcement officials and Neighbourhood Watch members at key times and places, the effective use of CCTV cameras, and investigation to target known perpetrators or groups of perpetrators,” Fritz said.

He added that urban design and maintenance strategies were also important to ensure that people had a safe passage to and from work, to schools, and to the shops.

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Cape Argus