By Andisiwe Makinana
Capetonians will soon have access to detailed statistics reflecting crime patterns down to street level - all available at the click of a mouse.
A City of Cape Town councillor has told the Cape Argus the city is working on an elaborate network which will allow the public to view these statistics online.
At the same time, the DA will be seeking advice about the legality of the government's decision not to regularly release South Africa's crime statistics.
Crime was high on the DA's agenda at the weekend as it met for its fourth federal congress, held on Saturday and yesterday at the Cape Town International Convention Centre.
The party is proposing that crime statistics should be released on a monthly basis and that they should be localised and made freely available to the public and to community structures.
Currently, crime statistics are released once a year by the national Department of Police (formerly safety and security) and are broken down into provinces, cities and police stations.
During former safety and security minister Charles Nqakula's term, crime statistics were sometimes released twice a year.
His successor, Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa, has gone back to releasing the statistics once a year. The most recent statistics released by his ministry cover the period from April 2008 to March 2009.
The DA says this made the statistics between six and 18 months out of date.
In a resolution adopted at the weekend, the party said the regular release of crime statistics was vital in the fight against crime because up-to-date and available crime stats helped communities and police determine crime trends in specific areas and relating to specific crimes.
Delegates who were part of a group that was discussing security and justice matters at the federal congress yesterday questioned why the party had not taken legal steps on the matter before.
Emotions ran high as delegates debated the resolution on the release of crime statistics, and they threatened to launch a class action against the state over the irregular release of the statistics and the lack of detail when they were made public.
During the discussion, Cape Town mayoral committee member JP Smith called for metro police in each of South Africa's metros to release their own statistics.
Smith said the City of Cape Town was "ready to roll on this (plan) in a few months".
Questioned later by the Cape Argus, Smith said the metro police released crime statistics monthly to community policing forums, and on request to anybody.
He said the city was working on an advanced network which would give detail "down to street level" and added that people looking to buy homes would now be able to make informed decisions.