30 Jun 2008
The Minister for Safety and Security presented the Crime Statistics for the period April 2007 to March 2008. Crime in the country had decreased overall by 7%, which meant that they had reached their target of 7 – 10%. Raw figures needed to be taken into account as percentages could seem high but were actually low in context with the figures. It seemed that organised crime had increased, but it was clarified that it was not organised crime in the strict definition of the term. Murder had decreased and was at its lowest since 1994. Journalists were interested in the matter of the police taking over security at the borderline and questioned whether they were ready and if precise locations of borderlines were known. The Deputy Commissioner replied that the only borderline that was problematic when it came to location was the one for Lesotho.
Crime situation in the Republic of South Africa (RSA) presentation
Ms Franscina Vuma (Assistant Commissioner: SAPS) gave an outline of the crime statistics. She clarified that the crime statistics covered five broad categories: contact crimes including aggravated robbery; contact-related crimes; property-related crimes; crimes heavily dependent on police action for detection and other serious crimes. The xenophobic attacks only started on the 11 May 2008 and had no effect on the crime statistics presented. Contact crimes were crimes against a person such as murder, attempted murder, rape (including attempted rape), indecent assault, assault with the intent to inflict grievous bodily harm (GBH), common assault, robbery with aggravating circumstances and common robbery. The murder ratio had decreased by 4.7%. The attempted murder ratio decreased by 7.5%. Rape and indecent assault statistics, were only for nine months because of the change in legislation that changed the definitions of these crimes, decreased by 8.8% and 2,1% respectively. The assault with the intent to inflict grievous bodily harm ratio decreased by 4,6%. Common assault decreased by 6,6%. Robbery with aggravating circumstances decreased by 7,4%. Common robbery decreased by 9,5%. Contact-related crimes included arson and malicious damage to property had decreased by 6,6% and 5,4% respectively. Property-related crimes including burglary at residential premises decreased by 5,6%; burglary at non-residential premises increased by 6,8%; theft of motor vehicles and motorcycles had decreased by 7,6%; theft out of or from motor vehicles had decreased by 10,8% and stock-theft had decreased by 1,2%.
Ms Vuma said that crimes that were heavily dependent on police action for detection, were illegal possession of firearms and ammunition that had decreased by 6,9%; drug-related crimes increased by 3,3% and driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs had increased by 25,4%. Other theft not mentioned elsewhere had decreased by 5,7%; commercial crimes had increased by 4,8% and shoplifting increased by 1,3%.
Dr Chris de Kock (Assistant Commissioner: SAPS) focussed on some of the sub-categories and raw figures were also provided. A pie chart was used to give further clarification serious crimes and the different subcategories. The subcategories were carjacking that had increased by 4,4%. Lists were provided of provinces with the highest to lowest increases and decreases as well as the twenty police stations depicting the highest incidences of carjacking and other subcategories. Robbery at residential premises (house robbery) increased by 13,5%. Robbery at non-residential premises (business robbery) increased by 47,4%. Truck hijacking increased by 39,6%. Bank robbery increased by 11,6%. Robbery of cash in transit decreased by 15,4% and public or street robbery had decreased by 15,3%. The presented asked that the raw figures be taken into account as percentages could seem higher than they really were.
Release of Crime Statistics presentation
Commissioner Andre Pruis (Deputy National Commissioner: SAPS) focussed on operational measures for crime and security. Government’s programme of action focussed on crime reduction and public safety, organised crime, national security and major events. The Justice, Crime Prevention and Security (JCPS) Cluster approach was explained. The socio-economic approach was also highlighted. The programme of action for organised crime was clarified. Security for land, air and sea borderlines were detailed. The planning for security for major events such as the 2010 FIFA World Cup was also highlighted.
Minister for Safety and Security Charles Nqakula address
The Minister’s introduction conveyed government’s concern that although crime had decreased it remained unacceptably high. There were various generators of crime including the socio-economic conditions under which many South Africans live. The conditions of many settlements had given rise to a sub-culture that tolerated crime. Although there was truth in the argument that law enforcement agencies have a responsibility to deal with crime it was also true that the fight against crime would benefit tremendously when communities worked in a solid partnership with law enforcement. Social crime was still a big problem in the country especially the abuse of women and children. The current report illustrated that rape has gone down by 8,8%. He also noted that sexual crimes in many instances were not reported because of the relationship between the victim and the perpetrator. It should be appreciated that murder had decreased which was connected to the decrease in aggravated robbery and that a large portion of murders were committed within the context of social crime. The Minister also highlighted the crime prevention operations and the total number of arrests of 1 274 062 made during the period under review. The partnerships between the JCPS and various stakeholders were noted as well as other initiatives.
Q: Car hijacking, truck hijacking and house and street robberies were part of the reason that people were immigrating. What were the police doing to reduce these numbers.
A: Commissioner Pruis replied that last year June they had a presentation about what they would do about these crimes. They looked at the police stations where the highest incidences of these crimes occurred. They met with the media to indicate the approach they had taken in relation to those stations and the deployment of additional personnel to those stations. Provincial personnel were redeployed to these police stations to have a visible presence and to introduce waylay operations based on their reaction capacity and information available. If they had specific intelligence available, they would deploy a special task force and members from the intervention unit. However, house robberies, business robberies, cash-in-transit and bank robberies could not be placed in the same category. Business robberies primarily targeted smaller businesses such as those in residential areas and spaza shops. Cash-in-transits and bank robberies were probably more of an organised crime approach. The docket analysis illustrated those house robberies were not organised. The measures introduced included best practises and it was clear that they moved some of the crime into another category. It was not easy to launch intelligence operations. Intelligence methods would concern the centralisation of dockets; making all the information from the dockets available at the high-tech centre and then feed said information back to the investigating officer. There was a deployment of visible policing and the intervention unit to those proposed areas.
A: Dr De Kock indicated that the people that committed the crimes were primarily groups of three to four people.
Q: What was the explanation for the high murder rate of children.
A: Dr De Kock emphasised that it was a small number and when they mentioned child murders, they referred to an age group of 0 – 18 years of age. Majority of those numbers were children between the ages of 16 and 18 years. Many of them also participated in gang violence. It was mostly child on child murder.
Q: What was the difference between house burglary, house robbery and house break-in.
A: Dr De Kock replied that burglary and house break-in were the same crime. It meant when your house was burgled and the owners were unaware. House robberies, on the other hand, had criminals using weapons. He further explained that non-residential were primarily business but it could include government departments, schools, churches and all non-residential buildings.
Q: How would the Minister characterise his term of office and would he prefer to remain in the position that he currently occupied.
A: The Minister replied that the ANC would decide where they would deploy him and he was not the best-placed person for an evaluation of this.
Q: Further clarification was requested on border security measures and if the 972 arrested along the border were undocumented foreign nationals.
A: Commissioner Pruis replied that the 972 arrests were on the borderline. It was in crossing the border for which the arrests were made of undocumented persons.
Q: What was the Department’s position on the possibility of the return of the use of street committees.
A: The Minister replied that street committees before liberation were strong in many areas. However, some of the members of the street committees did commit certain crimes. Some committees were able to deal with it and others could not. The street committees fell under the Municipal Police Departments (MPDs) and were units that fell under particular codes. In Mitchell’s Plain, there were already elements of street committees that were working together with police. They were subject to the command and control of the areas from where they came and particularly their organisation.
Q: Considering the increase in crimes such as aggravated assault and house robberies, were the interventions by the police sufficient?
A: The Minister replied that house robberies were a concern for them. The fact that these crimes had increased not only in the year under review but also in the three years since intervention, was also troublesome. There would be a meeting with all the provincial commissioners that would focus specifically on other interventions that needed to be made. The MECs would also be part of that meeting.
Q: Although the xenophobic attacks were not part of the figures, could the tactics and methods used in the police’s response to the attacks be given?
A: Commissioner Pruis replied that since 11 May, more than 60 people were killed but various other crimes were also reported and more than 1041 people were arrested. SAP’s immediate response was to mobilise all members in Gauteng, as that was the starting point of the attacks. Public order police were used from three provinces: Free State, Limpopo and North West. The National Intervention Unit gave members from Pretoria, Cape Town and Durban. Additional air support was also provided to bring the situation under control. Although the situation spread to other provinces, he pointed out that within a ten-day period the situation, to a large degree, was under control. Although many had stated that the reason for the attacks was the unhealthy competition with spaza shops and that foreign nationals did not pay tax, but when perpetrators were arrested, it seemed more criminal in nature. It was a mix of pure criminality and strong feelings. It was important to look at those areas where there was strong competition for resources. It was also important to note the continued service provided for those that moved to the police stations and then onto the shelters. They had also established special courts with the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) in the provinces. The first one started in the Western Cape to deal with the cases as soon as possible.
A: The Minister added that government was not forcing people to reintegrate into the communities that had perpetrated these crimes. In many areas, people had called on those that were displaced to return and they would be part of that process. Government had only encouraged such movement. In many areas, people had gone back. In areas where there was a sense of community organisation, there were no xenophobic attacks.
Q: Were the police ready to take control of the borders since the Portfolio Committee of Safety and Security had stated that the police were not ready. As there had been 972 arrests, it seemed that SAPS was aware of the location of the borderlines.
A: Commissioner Pruis replied that it was in reference to the borderline between South Africa and Lesotho that there was no certainty about where the borderline actually was. They had been in contact with the Department of Agriculture and the Surveyor-General. The police and the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) had different approaches in terms of patrol strategy as well as reactive strategy to possible crossings. The police used intelligence based on the organised crime approach where potential crossings were identified. The enhancement of the strategy included the use of satellite applications, which was used for surveillance of the borderline and certain software was used to determine where illegal crossings would occur. It should be noted that they would be making further proposals to the Justice, Crime Prevention and Security Cluster (JCPS) on the force levels that they would want to deploy. When the exit strategy was discussed they had indicated that 5 300 SAPS members should be deployed on the borderline. However with the SANDF, there was a review of the situation and they would go to the Cabinet committee with concrete proposals.
Q: Clarification of the satellite tracking devices was requested.
A: Commissioner Pruis replied that the satellite imaging system would be used in a similar manner for the stadiums as it was used for the borderline surveillance. There was specific software that they were going to use to profile 20 sites that would be applicable to the 2010 World Cup. The radar based aircraft would give a picture of 200 – 300 nautical miles. They were working with the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) on a contract basis. They had completed some of the sites and the results were excellent.
Q: Could you make available the SAPS report, quoted by President Mbeki, on xenophobic-like attacks from 2005?
A: Commissioner Pruis replied that the report was the one that was presented at a meeting at the Union Buildings. It was just a report that indicated what had happened since 2004/5. It was not a detailed report as what was referred to, was approximately four paragraphs.
Q: Was it safe to say that although there was a reduction overall in crime, the increase in car hijacking, truck hijacking and non-residential break in was an indication of a rise in organised crime?
A: Dr de Kock replied that in the sub-categories of robberies such as those of houses and smaller business, it was difficult to state that they were organised in the strict sense of organised crime. Organised crime only entered on the receiver side of stolen goods. In relation to car and truck hijacking they were clearly referring to organised groups. In a sense, on the social side, positive things had happened. It did seem as if the problem was organised crime, yet not in the strictest definition.
Q: What was the spatial distribution of child murders.
A: Dr de Kock replied that they had not done a hotspot analysis. It would be in the same areas as those listed in the top twenty police stations for murder.
Q: What was the view of police involvement in criminal activity.
A: The Minister replied that police officials involved in criminal activity was worrisome. They had statistics that showed that where officers were involved in crime, it was generally their fellow officers that would arrest them. If everyone viewed the fight against crime as important, the work of the police would be easier. It was also important to note that the police were working under extremely risky conditions. Negative reports from the media and from some opposition parties were not conducive to creating a sense of working together.
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