Western Cape MEC Albert Fritz welcomes drop in murders but criticises Covid-19 criminalisation of ordinary people
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CAPE TOWN - While welcoming the drop in a number of contact crimes in the Western Cape, community safety MEC Albert Fritz has also criticised the criminalisation of ordinary men and women for breaking coronavirus (Covid-19) regulations as the real criminals continue to terrorize communities.
Police Minister Bheki Cele on Friday released the crime statistics for the first quarter of the 2020/21 financial year, covering the period of April to June.
This is the first-time that quarterly statistics have been provided and it shows significant decreases in numerous crime categories, including murder and sexual offences.
In a statement following the release, Fritz noted that Cele "has heard" the Western Cape's call and committed to providing quarterly crime statistics.
"As the Western Cape government, we have long requested these figures which will provide safety stakeholders in the Western Cape with a better indication of how best to use our resources in a data-led and evidence-driven approach,” he said.
He commend the coordinated and integrated efforts of the South African Police Service (SAPS), SA National Defence Force (SANDF), and City of Cape Town’s law enforcement and metro police in working together during this period, which collectively increased visibility in communities.
"Your efforts have not gone unnoticed. At the same time, I welcome IPID’s [the Independent Police Investigative Directorate] investigations into cases of police brutality during the lockdown, as this will ensure that the dignity of our residents is upheld.
“The criminalisation of ordinary men and women who now hold criminal records because of breaking Covid-19 regulations is regrettable, as the real criminals continue to terrorize our poor communities,” Fritz said.
Overall in the Western Cape, there were significant decreases in murder (27.4 percent), sexual offences (37.5 percent), attempted murder (7.8 percent), assault with intent to do grievous bodily harm (GBH) (42.9 percent), robbery (51.1 percent), and carjacking (35 percent).
However, there were also increases in crime categories such as burglary at non-residential premises (8.2 percent) and stock theft (16.8 percent). This was in part attributed to the recent spate in violent protest action and looting during the lockdown.
The closure of businesses and schools, coupled with the ban on alcohol sales, led to opportunistic crimes in these areas. The Western Cape had experienced the highest number of burglaries at non-residential premises and at liquor stores (270), followed by Gauteng (228) and KwaZulu-Natal (224). There was a total of 248 burglaries at schools in the province, Fritz said.
“Public violence and looting have no place in our province. I have recently met with the National Commissioner Khehla Sitole. There were many positive solutions put forward to tackle the spate of violent protest that we have seen in the province which focused on intelligence gathering, resource deployment, and ensuring that those responsible for destabilisation are brought to book,” he said.
Nationally, murder had decreased by 35.8 percent from the previous year. In the Western Cape, the number of cases of murder in the first quarter of 2020/21 were the lowest in five years, as compared to previous quarters. During this period, there were 767 murders, which was 27.4 percent lower compared to the same period last year (1056).
"Notably, public places and private residences were the places of occurrence where murder, attempted murder, and assault GBH were most likely to occur across the country," he said.
Murders in the 11 priority areas in Cape Town had almost all seen significant reductions, including Delft (49.3 percent), Kraaifontein (35.1 percent), Mfuleni (56.5 percent), Khayelitsha (29.3 percent), and Harare (30 percent). However, at the same time, Philippi East had an increase of 96.6 percent in murders over the previous quarter.
Of the top 30 stations for reporting murder, 14 precincts (46.6 percent) were in the Western Cape and accounted for 55.8 percent (428 out of 767) of murders in the province. Of the 14, 13 were in the Cape Flats - Mfuleni, Manenberg, Elsies River, Bishop Lavis, Lentegeur, Gugulethu, Mitchells Plain, Ravensmead, Harare, Nyanga, Delft, Khayelitsha, and Philippi East.
“While the lockdown has no doubt played a significant role in the decrease of murders and crime all-round, so too has the deployment of the additional 500 law enforcement officers through the Western Cape Safety Plan in the 11 priority areas. We have seen decreases in almost all priority areas, and I wish to commend our Leap [law enforcement advancement programme] officers on their sterling contributions.
“In our efforts to make the province safer for all and ensure that crime categories do not increase again after the lockdown, the Western Cape government will continue to drive programmes through the Western Cape Safety Plan which focus on building greater levels of social cohesion and solidarity in communities. We will do this by taking a whole of society approach which is implemented transversally, ensuring economic and social recovery from the effects of the lockdown,” Fritz said.
African News Agency