File photo: Henk Kruger / African News Agency (ANA)

The South African National Institute for Crime Prevention and the Reintegration of Offenders (Nicro) has a simple message for the government after the release of the 2017/18 crime statistics: "Stop the talk and take action now!"

“The time has come to stop debating, deliberating and lamenting the high incidence and consequences of crime and spotlighting crime statistics and all that is negative. It is time for positive, proactive action," said Nicro chief executive Soraya Solomon.

"Our country and its people will only succeed in defeating crime if we channel our passion for and commitment to a crime-free South Africa by taking carefully planned, goal-directed, steadfast and positive action. Only a united front, with the necessary political drive and well-funded, positive social activism, will ensure that crime does not divide us or diminish the remarkable achievements of our people and our country."

The release of the crime statistics report recorded an increase in the number of cases of violence against women and children; a murder rate increase in all provinces, with the exception of Mpumalanga and the Northern Cape; and that an average of 57 South Africans are murdered every day.

"Some 20% of all murders committed in the last year were of women and children. This, together with an estimation that only between 10 and 25% of sexual offences are reported, clearly indicates that South Africa is a country in crisis.

While national police commissioner Khehla Sitole insisted that South Africa was not a "lawless state" and that residents “would not see these figures again”, Nicro wanted to know what plans are in place to ensure a "radical decrease in the rates of crime and violence in our country". 

"The annual release of the crime statistics report results in an outcry from political parties, civil society and communities every year, and for good reason. The time has come to put effective strategies in place to ensure the safety of every South Africa citizen”, urges Solomon.

A quick analysis indicated that the number of police officers had dwindled in recent years and that there are also too few police stations. The police force, which has been ineffective in curbing violent crime, has essentially failed the citizens of South Africa. 

Sitole admitted that the police service has a deficit of 62 000 officers and that while the country's police colleges could train 7 000 police officers annually, there is only funding to train 5 000. 

According to the United Nations' best policing practice, there should be one police officer for every 220 citizens. "South African police are looking after double the figure," Sitole said, as in South Africa there is one police officer for every 383 people.

"South Africa’s high levels of crime and violence demand an effective police force that is equipped in terms of size, skills and resources to respond to these critical times. However, a key role-player in the fight against crime and violence, the South African government, has failed to increase and adequately train its police force.

“According to a 2015 ISS report, South Africa spent R 126 billion on the criminal justice system but only a mere R9 billion on crime prevention for the year. Nicro would like to see a significant shift with more resources being allocated to crime prevention programmes,” said Solomon.

Nicro conceded that the problem is complex and that solutions to the high levels of crime and violence are equally complex and challenging, but that urgent action is required to ensure that South Africa does not descend into a state of lawlessness.

“Nicro’s experience has shown that reducing crime and violence necessitates multi-level intervention, which takes into account socio-economic challenges, the family and the community. Therapeutic programmes are needed for children who have been brutalised by their circumstances in order to prevent them from becoming murderers and rapists later in life.

"Increased social services and drug rehabilitation centres for youth who are addicted are essential to provide South Africa’s youth with opportunities to excel and reach their full potential. 

"In essence, as long as we do not match the resources required to deal with the magnitude of this problem, we will continue to fail and we will surely slip into a state of lawlessness," Solomon cautions.