Johannesburg - It is not just about statistics; it is about winning the hearts and minds of all South Africans – and the police believe they are nearly there.
Confidence in the police force is up, and this, believes SA Police Service research task team head General Mzwandile Petros, will be reaffirmed by the year’s end with StatsSA’s release of the Victim Survey.
Speaking to The Star on Thursday, Petros said visible policing and operations like Duty Calls, where crime hotspots are identified and “flooded” with officers, has had its desired effect on the crime stats.
It was also changing the way criminals operated, by making them travel to new areas to find targets of opportunity. “You are seeing this in outlying areas like Muldersdrift and Bronkhorstspruit,” he said.
But while criminals might be on the run in some areas, there were still problems that needed to be addressed, Petros said. The police needed to improve how they deal with organised crime.
“We need good detectives and we are working at improving their skills,” he said.
The incidence of the most feared crimes is slowly going down, according to Thursday’s crime stats. While violent crime categories are down, Petros said the police were facing criminals who were willing to travel to do their work.
Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa said: “We are not there yet, but with the participation of all sectors of society, we are turning the tide against crime.”
The statistics are released annually by the police, six months after the end of the financial year they are from – a delay frequently criticised. The stats are the cases reported and do not include detection or conviction rates.
Murder, attempted murder, assault, sexual assault and robbery – it’s down across the board for contact crimes in SA.
Murder is down 3.1 percent, attempted murder 5.2 percent, assault with grievous bodily harm 5.2 percent, common assault 3.4 percent and rape 1.9 percent. The police calculated the decreases and increases on the incidence of each type of crime per 100 000 people, which Mthethwa said was the internationally accepted way of measuring.
But children were increasingly being targeted, warned Mthethwa, calling for parents and guardians to watch over their children more carefully.
Nearly 800 children were murdered in the past year and more than 25 000 were victims of sexual assault. Children are 5 percent of the total murder victims and 40 percent of the sexual assault victims.
The murder rate is regarded as a key indicator.
“Murder is one of the most reliable trends of crime statistics,” said Mthethwa.
He pointed to the drop in murders per 100 000 people.
“This translates to a 27.6 percent reduction in murder over an eight-year period.”
The actual number of murders went down too – by nearly 17 percent – from more than 18 000 to fewer than 16 000.
Of the murders, about two-thirds are assault-related, 16 percent committed during another crime, 5 percent self-defence, 5 percent vigilante justice, 1 percent gang related and 1 percent taxi related.
Petros said the police were constrained by their inability to predict most murders or assaults, and because many were committed in private places.
He said substance abuse contributed significantly to contact crimes, often escalating arguments to assaults to murders.
Mthethwa said sexual offences remained “stubbornly high”.
“To a large extent, we do admit that this is one challenging category for the police to police. It is also influenced by reporting behaviour. If victims trust the police, then you will get more reporting,” he said.
The pointers for organised crime – carjacking, truck hijacking, bank robbery and cash-in-transit heists – are all down, which Mthethwa attributed to the use of provincial operational centres, or war rooms.
Drunk-driving cases increased 3 percent, up for the second year in a row. “This is worrying, particularly as fatalities continue to be associated with drunk driving,” said Mthethwa.