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It’s a total cop-out as crime soars

The recently released crime statistics has led to calls for a change in how police operate. Graphic: Timothy Alexander/African News Agency (ANA)

The recently released crime statistics has led to calls for a change in how police operate. Graphic: Timothy Alexander/African News Agency (ANA)

Published Jun 9, 2022

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South Africans spend over R100 billion on the South African Police Services and at least another R50 billion on private security, but they are still not safe.

The crime statistics for the first three months of this year showed that South Africans were under attack and not safe anywhere.

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Between January and March, 6 083 murders were reported countrywide. It amounts to 67 people being killed every day and marks an increase of 1107 cases compared to the same period in 2021.

There were 10 818 rapes reported and 32 783 robberies with aggravated circumstances. Kidnapping shot up to 109.2% with 3 306 cases reported. That’s around 36 kidnappings per day.

In KwaZulu-Natal, several police stations, including Inanda, Umlazi, Durban Central, and Kwadukuza, made the top 30 of most cases recorded.

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The Inanda and Umlazi SAPS topped the list for the highest number of murder and attempted murder cases reported.

In this file photo, the South African Police Service is seen leading a march against Gender Based Violence that took place in Umlazi. Picture: Tumi Pakkies/African News Agency(ANA)

CHANGE THE SYSTEM

Andrew Whitfield, the DA's Shadow Minister of Police, said almost every single category of crime had increased significantly year on year since 2018.

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“The current model of policing under the national government is failing the people of South Africa. It is time for Parliament to have a serious discussion about decentralising the police service to improve accountability and service delivery,” he said in a statement

Zandile Majozi, the IFP’s spokesperson on police, said: “SAPS needs serious reform and professionalisation before matters become worse. We must devolve the police service once and for all into a federal structure, whereby provincial and local police are the experts on crime in their respective areas. Drastic measures must be taken at this juncture as it seems none of the government’s plans are working.”

Experts and unions say a lack of manpower, increased workloads and little to no resources are contributing to the problems faced by the police force.

Richard Mamabolo, the spokesperson for the Police and Prisons Civil Rights Union (POPCRU) said: “We are of the view that crime statistics should not be the sole responsibility of the Ministry of Police but the collective responsibility of the entire criminal justice cluster (CJC).

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"The SAPS must account for the arrests made, the judiciary must account for the number of prosecutions and convictions and the Department of Correctional Services must account for the number of incarcerations.

"This, we believe, will assist in determining consolidated future budgets that should bring about a correlated approach within the CJC instead of the current continued situation wherein every department works blindly and in isolation of one another.”

WORRYING TRENDS

Lizette Lancaster, the manager of the crime and justice information hub at the Institute for Security Studies(ISS) said the latest crime statistics were worrying.

Lancaster said many South Africans had turned to private security for protection given the shortcomings in the SAPS.

“We are sitting with a number of private security guards in the country, three times the number compared to police members. Middle class as well as moderately to well-resourced communities have the means to employ private security, basically outsourcing the police.

In this file picture a joint operation with SAPS, private security companies and a neighbourhood watch team led to search operations on drug lords homes in Cape Town. Photographer: Ayanda Ndamane/ African News Agency (ANA)

“Of course, this is not the case for the more disadvantaged communities and this is where we are also seeing an increase in vigilantism because people are feeling that the police are unable or not willing to assist them.

Lancaster said while the private security industry was regulated, not everyone was above the law.

“Sometimes they are the ones fuelling violence and are often linked to some of the organised crime syndicates.”

PRIVATE SECURITY WEIGHS IN

Tyron Powell, the managing director of Marshall Security claimed there was a decrease in serious crimes in areas they policed.

“With regards to the police and their duties, we work closely with the police officers within our precinct to achieve maximum results. Some types of crime are also uncontrollable circumstances, such as domestic violence and gender-based violence. The police are unfortunately very under-resourced but a symbiotic relationship between the SAPS and private security benefits one and all.

In this fille photo police and private security companies apprehended three robbers in Palmview, Phoenix north of Durban. Picture supplied.

“Our operations teams are extremely proactive. We don't only respond to alarm activations after a crime has occurred. We actively patrol and monitor our suburbs, work on intelligence and with informers to arrest syndicated armed gangs responsible for increased crimes.

“Our arrests result in successful convictions where actual jail time is handed down to criminals and takes them off our streets. We utilise technological advancements in the security fields to assist and drive our crime fighting efforts,'' he said.

Henk Van Bemmelen, the chief executive officer of Blue Security said: “Crime is a sad reality that we all face daily and is particularly challenging for KwaZulu Natal. There is, however, some good news as house robberies and robberies at business premises have dropped slightly.”

Van Bemmelen said Blue Security worked with communities and other stakeholders to keep people safe.

“We care for the safety and wellbeing of the communities we serve and protect. We are aware that serious and violent crime situations are scary and knowledge is power. We continuously create awareness and provide expert advice to our clients and communities on how to manage these situations safely as a victim or witness,” he said.

‘MUST CLEAN HOUSE’

Police Commissioner, Bheki Cele. Picture: Phill Magakoe

Meanwhile Bheki Cele, the police minister, said there was a need for police management to do things differently.

"This includes improved working conditions of officers to ensure the availability of the required tools of the trade to respond to crime as well as rooting out officers who choose to intentionally fail the communities they are meant to serve.

“Immediate interventions have now been put in place to address the dip in performance. We have adopted a police station policing approach. This means accountability will start from the bottom (at stations) and escalate right up to the very top.”

Cele said the Station Accountability Plan rested on station commanders who would be expected to know their staff, take charge of their police stations, and build and restore relations with the community.

He said they were also focussing on corruption.

“If we are serious about rebuilding community relations, we must clean house. Vetting and monitoring of members have to be speedily undertaken. Crime intelligence must be beefed up at the station level for effective crime-fighting.

"The SAPS cannot be a haven for criminals disguised as officers of the law. We call on the IPID (Independent Police Investigative Directorate) to work with us on this one and deal with police officers who fail the organisation and ultimately fail the nation.”

Cele said they were confident the changes outlined would improve service delivery, improve response times and go a long way towards building safer communities.

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