Part of the polices strategy to combat crime in shopping malls was high visibility patrols in the centres. Photo: Etienne Creux
Part of the polices strategy to combat crime in shopping malls was high visibility patrols in the centres. Photo: Etienne Creux

South Africans live in perpetual fear

By Mogomotsi Magome and Loyiso Sidimba Time of article published Sep 22, 2013

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Johannesburg - A crime survey concluded by a local pharmaceutical company a day before the release of the crime statistics this week shows that South Africans remain terrified of falling victim to crime.

The survey by Pharma Dynamics, a company that also specialises in treating depression, revealed that more than 94 percent of people who took part in the survey were “extremely afraid” of falling victim in the near future.

“With serious and violent crime currently at a 10-year high, with increases in murder, attempted murder, car hijacking, street robbery and house robbery – all crimes which South Africans are most afraid of – it is no wonder that perceptions of insecurity are so high.

 “Our survey is indicative of how much crime, specifically violent crime, can contribute to a mass fear of insecurity,” said Pharma Dynamics spokeswoman Mariska Fouche.

According to Fouche, the study was concluded on Wednesday this week and included 1 000 adults who live in different parts of South Africa.

Another global crime study, conducted by renowned global polling group Gallup, showed that South Africa ranked second behind Venezuela on the list of countries where adults were afraid to walk alone at night.

The poll showed that 74 percent of adults polled in December last year – the same period during which the current crime statistics were collated – said they did not feel safe walking alone at night on streets where they lived.

National police commissioner Riah Phiyega and Minister of Police Nathi Mthethwa moved to reassure South Africans this week that crime was under control, but there was still scepticism over what this means for ordinary South Africans.

Chandre Gould, a researcher at the Institute for Security Studies, was not enthusiastic about the police leadership’s assurances about having crime under control.

She added her voice to many who have been calling for a more frequent release of crime statistics, preferably monthly, but said she was not surprised by some of the figures, including increasing numbers of people who were killed in South Africa and the rising numbers of crimes against women and children.

“Some of these figures just show that we need long-term solutions for the problems in our society. If you look at the high number of sexual crimes, it just shows a continuation of high levels of rape and violence against women and children.

“The root cause is that there are so many men out there who still believe they are entitled to sex with women; they see it as a right they have,” said Gould.

She added that the high murder rate in South Africa was indicative of a generally violent society that was beyond the control of the police and the criminal justice system.

“We need a long-term strategy to deal with violence, because it appears to remain a significant feature of our society.

“Police react to murders when they have taken place, so it really goes beyond their control.

“We cannot wait any longer. We need a long-term solution where children will not grow up in a violent environment, and will themselves not be violent,” said Gould.

The latest raw figures for contact crimes – as opposed to the crime rate when measured on a per-population ratio – indicate that serious crimes that people are terrified of, including murder, common and house robberies and carjackings, remain relatively high, even though there are decreases in some areas.

Burglaries at people’s homes had also increased from 245 531 reported incidents in 2011/12 to 262 113 in 2012/13.

A total of 16 259 people were killed during 2012/13, up from 15 609 in the previous financial year.

The number of sexual crimes reported increased from 64 514 in the previous financial year to 66 387 in 2012/13, a shocking statistic in a country where violence against women and children remains an ever-growing scourge.

However, 2 758 cases of neglect and ill-treatment of children were recorded in 2012/13, while there were 6 504 in 2003/04, a decrease of nearly 58 percent.

Sunday Independent

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