Halved murder rate ‘still too high’

By Caryn Dolley Time of article published Apr 15, 2014

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Cape Town - South Africa’s murder rate is still a concern, despite it having dropped by more than 50 percent in less than two decades.

On Monday, Chandre Gould, a senior researcher with the Institute for Security Studies, said even though there had been a big decrease, the country’s murder rate was five times the international average. “It’s important to keep in mind our murder rate is incredibly high.”

Last week, the UN Global Study on Homicide 2013 was released and revealed that South Africa’s murder rate had decreased from 64.5 per 100 000 of the population to 31 per 100 000 in 2012. It said the global average murder rate was 6.2 per 100 000 of the population.

Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa had said the decrease in South Africa’s murder rate showed that the country was “moving up the safety ladder”.

Gould said these statistics were “not confounding at all” because it was known that there had been a reduction of murders over 20 years.

“There’s a stabilisation of society after transition.”

Other countries, which had gone from an autocracy to a democracy, had experienced the same situation.

While there had been a decrease overall over nearly two decades, Gould said that based on the police’s official statistics, the country’s murder rate had recently increased slightly. The police’ statistics showed that from April 1, 2011 to March 31, 2012 the murder rate had been 30.9 per 100 000 and this had increased from April 2012 to March to 31.1 percent.

“We’ve seen a slight increase. We’re waiting to see the current state... The point is, we can’t be complacent,” Gould said, referring to the police’s latest set of crime statistics which would deal with a portion of this year and would be released later this year.

She said the UN homicide study had used police statistics when looking at the country’s murder rate. Previously doubt had been cast on the accuracy of police crime statistics, but Gould said when it came to murder, the related statistics were most reliable “as you’ve got a dead body”.

The UN homicide report said it used data from criminal justice systems or from public health systems.

“In the former, data are generated by law enforcement or criminal justice authorities in the process of recording and investigating a crime event, whereas in the latter, data are produced by health authorities certifying the cause of death of an individual,” it said.

Gould said when it came to reducing the murder rate in South Africa, social interventions were necessary. She said “throwing money at policing” would not bring down the murder rate because it was very difficult to prevent a murder.

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Cape Times

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