Cape Town,07.07.2006: Police at the scene of one of the Parklands hijackings. A heavily armed gang rampaged through Parklands, Table View, this morning, hijacking at least four cars, some in their owners driveways. Picture Gary Van Wyk/Reporter Henry Du Plessis.

Durban - R140 billion – that’s how much South Africa forked out last year to prevent crime. But, if the latest crime statistics are anything to go by, we’re simply not getting value for money from either the police or security companies.

In the past financial year the government budgeted almost R70bn for the SAPS. That’s taxpayer’s money. But many South Africans don’t just rely on the police – they hire private security companies to protect their homes and businesses.

According to the Private Security Industry Regulatory Authority (Psira), South Africans spent just under R70bn last year with security companies.

On Friday, while releasing the country’s latest crime statistics, Police Commissioner Riah Phiyega pointed out that South Africa’s private security industry was the largest in the world.

Psira has 9 000 registered security companies and over 400 000 security guards on their accredited data base. That’s more people than the police and army combined.

Despite this, South Africans are being robbed when they are in their homes.

This involves some level of violence and happens even though many homes are equipped with hi-tech alarm systems and an armed response service.

According to the latest crime stats countrywide robberies at home went up in one year by 7.4 percent.

In KwaZulu-Natal they dipped slightly this year compared to last year.

Burglaries (when nobody is at home) have remained more or less static in the past decade.

Many businesses have also been robbed even though they employ security guards.

According to the latest crime statistics, in the past year robberies at businesses shot up by more than 10 percent countrywide. In KZN they went up by 15 percent. Over 10 years they went up from 382 cases to 2 707 – an increase of just over 700 percent.

Carjacking continues to be a problem even though most insurance companies insist that even medium-priced new vehicles be fitted with a tracking device.

In the past year, carjacking shot up by more than 12 percent countrywide. In KZN the situation was somewhat better. It fell by just under half a percent and over a 10-year period reflected a downward trend. However, 2 274 people were still put through the trauma of having their vehicles taken, often at gunpoint.

Overall, almost 57 000 vehicles were stolen in South Africa in the last reporting period. About 8 000 of these were taken in KZN.

Economists said taxpayers were not getting value for money from the state and private security companies. Chris Hart, Investment Solutions chief strategist and economist, said: “South African tax is said to be the highest burden in the world. If the country’s 6 to 7 million registered taxpayers are not receiving value for money then this is a big problem.”

 

He said money spent on security should be money well spent, but instead it was becoming “dead capital” in the economy.

“The police budgets are not being utilised efficiently; if we are spending more than R70bn and not seeing any results, then we have a lot to account for. It reduces growth and the high crime statistics reflect that we have a problem,” said Hart.

David Shapiro of Sasfin said: “South Africans are reaching boiling point. Besides the fact that we are not seeing results from the money we invest in our security, we are also destroying our economy. The indirect costs incurred from spending billions on security and seeing no results are enormous.”

 

Spokesperson for Psira, Mpho Mofikoe, said an ever-increasing number of people were seeing the need to have private security.

“It used to be a thing only for the upper class, but now even people in townships are not feeling safe, hence they are securing their houses privately,” said Mofikoe.

The Security Association of South Africa (Sasa) said they believed police budgets were not being used properly. “What are they doing with all that money? The policing sector needs to work more closely with the private sector if they want to see the crime statistics decrease,” said Tony Botes, a spokesperson for Sasa.

Chief operations officer for Ctrack Mark Rousseau said they sold about 7 500 systems countrywide every month and that figure was increasing. “The decrease in the number of vehicles being stolen is probably due to the more sophisticated GPS systems being more cost effective as opposed to the traditional RF-based systems.”

Spokeswoman for TrackerSA, Reyana Gangat, said Tracker and others had played a major role in helping to bring down vehicle crime.

“Over the past 16 years, Tracker and the police have recovered more than 68 000 stolen and hijacked vehicles which led to the arrest of over 13 000 people.”

Harry Louw, Altech Netstar’s managing director, said their subscribers had seen a rise in vehicle theft in the past year. “Criminals are not only targeting new entry level vehicles but older models also.”

Police spokesman Solomon Mogkale said the police did the best they could with their budgets, but could do more with the help of communities and the private sector. – Additional reporting by Charmel Payet

Sunday Tribune