Crime Statistics 2008/9: Minister of Police briefing


21 Sep 2009

Minister of Police, Mr Nkosinathi Mthethwa, reported that the important category of contact crime accounted for 32.7% of all crimes. He pointed out the increases in robbery with aggravated circumstances, sexual offences, stock theft and commercial crime. Under aggravated robberies, he referred specifically to the trio crimes of business and house robberies and hijackings. The highest increase was recorded in business robberies - this had increased by 41.5% when compared to 2007/8. Sexual offences increased by 10.1%. This increase could, in part be attributed to changes in the legislation. Under the new Sexual Offences Act, a number of new categories of crime were now included. The first proper comparison would only be possible at the end of next year. The increase of 2.7% in stock theft was a matter of serious concern. Commercial crime increased by 16%. During this period murder declined by 3.4% and attempted murder by 4.3%. Common assault declined by 4.3% and assault with intent to inflict grievous bodily harm (GBH) by 4.7%.  Street robberies declined by 7.4% and common robberies by 8.9%. The number of bank robberies declined by  29.2%.  ATM attacks (not listed as a specific category in the crime statistics) also declined by 10%. The Minister briefly reviewed the planned measures to reduce crime levels.

Dr Chris De Kock, Deputy National Commissioner: South African Police Service, briefed the media on the more technical aspects of the crime statistics looking at the weighting of different crime categories, contact crime, the social nature of murders in South Africa and the influence of the Sexual Offences Act on the increased number of sexual offences. He emphasised that the increases or decreases were based on ratios and that this was necessary to make the statistics internationally comparable. He also explained the statistics on street robberies, residential robberies, trio crime (business robberies, house robberies and hijackings) and ATM bombings.


Q: A journalist referred to the controversy around the manipulation of crime statistics by certain police stations. He asked if those manipulated statistics had been eliminated in the compilation of the 2008/09 statistics.
A: The Minister responded that specific cases in Kwazulu-Natal had been finalised. The other cases in the Western Cape had been referred to the Independent Complaints Directorate (ICD) to check the validity of the claims.

Q: The National Prosecuting Authority had released a figure for 2 million reported crimes. Of these, 1,05 million had been enrolled for court cases. What happened to the outstanding 1 million reported crimes? When measured against the conviction rate, it appeared that criminals had a 90% certainty that they would get away with a crime.

A: The Minister responded that there was a difference between the conviction rate and crimes reported. In some cases the reported crimes were withdrawn. Unfortunately, the statistics did not account for the reported crimes that were subsequently withdrawn.

Dr De Kock said that the journalist should check the SAPS website which showed all the police stations' statistics and contained provincial comparisons. All the information could not be reflected in the report before them.

Q: A journalist referred to the closing down of the United States Embassy in South Africa and asked Mr Cele to confirm what the cause was and whether this was related to a terrorist threat.

A: Mr Bheki Cele, SAPS National Commissioner, responded that the US Embassy situation had been reported to South Africa intelligence structures and the situation was under control.

Q: The Minister was asked whether xenophobia was a priority and where was it mentioned in the briefing

A: Dr De Kock responded that the incidents of xenophobia were comparatively small. South Africa had experienced a surge in 2008. This had resulted in approximately 60 murders and this constituted a very small percentage of overall murders.

Q: The Minister was asked to expand on what was meant by the statement in the presentation document about the neglect of rural areas.

A: The Minister responded that there had been deliberate historical neglect of the rural areas. Government had a long way to go to ensure that rural areas were secure. Rural areas lacked the resources, especially the number of police stations available to the people.

Mr Cele added that the rural areas were also lacking other resources, such as tarred roads, lights and telecommunications. He commented on the difficulties people in rural areas faced as their access to police stations was severely limited and often crimes were reported days later or not at all due to these constraints.

Q: A journalist asked what was being done to curb house robberies.

Q: A journalist asked the Commissioner to clarify what the issues were surrounding the closing of the US Embassy, specifically if this was related to a terrorist threat or threat to national security.

Q: A journalist asked for a detailed explanation of what was meant by the further decrease of ATM bombings from 10% in 2007/8 to a 75% decrease in 2008/9.

A: Dr De Kock responded that the individual statistics were available for every police station. He referred the journalist to slide 24 of the presentation, specifically the blue line indicative of the changes in ATM bombings. He pointed out that a dramatic once-off increase could be observed in May and July 2008. After that a similarly dramatic decrease was observed up to September 2008, followed by a steady minor increase to 28 ATM bombings in March 2009. [See graph: Compared to the March 2008 level (71 cases), the March 2009 figure amounted to a 75% reduction in ATM bombings for the 2008/9 reporting period.]

Q: The media asked how the ICD would be strengthened.

A: The Minister responded that there had been an outcry about the ICD and its weak oversight of the police. The Department was strengthening the structure of the ICD, with a particular focus on adjusting the salary levels of management in response to parliamentary recommendations and comments that the ICD was seen as a toothless dog.

Q: The Minister was asked to comment on the increases in murder and house robbery statistics from the figure recorded in 2007/8.

A: Dr De Kock referred the media to slides 5 and 6 of the presentation pointing out that the overall decrease of 339 cases applied to murders. Referring to slide 15 he noted that house robberies had increased by 3957 cases amounting to a percentage increase of 27,3 %

Q: The Commissioner was asked to comment on organised crime in South Africa and the role of the Hawks.

Q: The Minister was asked what was meant by “re-engaging specialised units” and whether this meant that these units would be re-opened and what the envisaged timeframe was for this.

A: Mr Cele replied that the specialised units were never eradicated, however, their resources and training had been redistributed and as a result the specialised units had been weakened. The Minister suggested that they should be reorganised at a provincial level to ensure that they stay well resourced and well trained.

Q: Referring to the trio crimes (business robberies, house robberies and vehicle hijackings) statistics, the media asked if the police considered this a success, in light of the promises made by former Minister of Safety and Security, Charles Nqakula.

Q: The Commissioner was asked to comment on the areas where there was room for improvement and what the way forward was.

A: Mr Cele responded that he was not happy about the statistics. He was especially concerned about the high murder and house robbery rates. The SAPS would focus on the procedural and investigative areas of their work, such as improving the taking of statements to assist the prosecution process. They had engaged in the retraining of existing units and the reintroduction of specialised units. With reference to vehicle hijacking, SAPS would increase its co-operation with neighbouring countries. This was important because the vehicles often crossed the borders. South Africa was looking at the alignment of legislation on re-registration of vehicles within the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and talks on this were ongoing. Cross border crime also related to areas like stock theft and drug trafficking. Broadly the SAPS were working had to decrease crime in South Africa.

Q: A journalist asked what the draft of the amendment to Section 49 of the Criminal Procedure Act would contain and how would it define the right of the police to use their firearms.

A: Mr Cele responded that the amendment to Section 49 was a parliamentary process. The Commissioner of Police was not the driver of this process. Parliament would work in conjunction with the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development. He added that he fully supported measures to strengthen police against criminals.

Q: A journalist referred to the 41,5% increase in business robberies in 2008/9. In addition to the 47% increase in 2007/8, this amounted to an increase in excess of 80% in two years. Who was actually committing these robberies?

A: Dr De Kock responded that the business robberies increased when the increase in house robberies started. Docket analysis had indicated that the majority of the businesses were small to medium sized. This was serious as these businesses were the generators of jobs. They found that the major target for these robberies were businesses that had cash on hand. They were also less organised than ATM bombing or hijackings as the robberies involved fewer people. Each police station had the capacity to analyse these cases, establish links to other cases and draw conclusions about the possible connection between repeat offenders.

Q: A journalist asked what the monetary value of the increase in commercial robberies was.

A: Dr De Kock responded that it was difficult to assess this through docket analysis, especially where they were dealing with small informal businesses. People were often reluctant to give police information on the value of what was stolen. Therefore the figures on this were questionable.

Q: A journalist asked what the figures for commercial crimes were.

A: Dr De Kock responded that this was difficult to determine as commercial cases were very complex.

Q: When will the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) border patrol be put into effect and what was the rationale for this?

A: Mr Cele responded that discussions were taking place between SAPS and the SANDF. Their work on the borders would be joint activities. The SANDF’s visibility would be greater at the border but the SAPS would still be responsible for investigations and procedural aspects.

The media briefing was concluded.

Speech by Minister of Police Mr E N Mthethwa on the occasion of the release of the Crime Statistics for the 2008/09 Fiscal year

22 September 2009

Fellow Ministers in the JCPS Cluster
Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee
Provincial MECs present
National Commissioner BH Cele
Deputy National Commissioners
Divisional Commissioners
Provincial Commissioners
Members of the media both local and International
Ladies and gentlemen
Fellow South Africans,

The Government of the Republic remains firmly committed to the realisation of the goal of a better life for all. This includes the improvement of the quality of life of all the people of our country in a manner that will ensure enhanced levels of safety and security.

To a large measure, crime in our country has a uniquely random and violent character. A greater proportion of murders, rapes and other crimes take place among acquaintances, particularly in poor communities where living conditions do not allow for decent family and social life.

The high number of firearms among civilians, greed and conspicuous consumption, the psychology of patriarchal power relations and inconsiderate attitudes towards vulnerable members of society, especially children, are also some of the factors that continue to drive crimes like cash-in-transit heists, rapes, assaults and others. While aiming at reducing the number of firearms in circulation, the work we continue to do within the context of the Firearms Control Act has as its ultimate objective the reduction of firearm-related crimes.

In addition, cross border criminal networks are involved in a variety of
crimes including vehicle hijacking, drug and human trafficking.
All these factors speak to the continued relevance of a multipronged approach in the fight against crime, combining aspects of crime prevention, crime combating, the improvement of socio-economic conditions and strengthening of the spirit of ubuntu and human solidarity among citizens.

Today’s briefing focuses on the release of the South African Police Service’s crime statistics for the period 1st April 2008 to 31 March 2009. As you would all be aware, government releases these statistics once a year to provide the public with an indication of the crime situation in the country. More importantly, crime statistics are used daily as a management tool to guide operational plans for the SAPS.
We need to reiterate that the release of statistics serves not only to quantify crime or to create a debate in our society. We believe that this is a call to action for Government, Business, NGOs and communities. 

As you will observe in the various break-downs of crime trends over the past fiscal year, there are areas where we are making progress. At the same time there are other areas where we are still lagging behind. 

Nevertheless, the ANC Government remains unmoved in its commitment to securing a better life for all and, the fight against crime is an integral part of this effort.  

Contact crime currently accounts for 32.7% of all crimes. It is this form of crime with which violence is generally associated. We are therefore encouraged by the decrease in five of the seven contact crime categories during the period under review.

Conversely, there are indeed certain types of crime that have increased. The four areas as reflected in the crime statistics report with which we are particularly unhappy are; robbery with aggravated circumstances, sexual offenses, stock theft and commercial crime.

In assessing aggravated robberies there are three areas which account for the increase. These areas are business robberies, house robberies and hijackings.

Of the three areas mentioned, the highest increase was recorded in the area of business robberies. During the year under review the number of reported business robbery cases increased by 41.5% when compared to the previous year.

Over the last few months we have been engaging the business community to assess how we can better work together to reduce these robberies. Arising from these meetings a number of key areas have been identified. 

The first relates to the type of businesses being targeted. It has become clear that formal and big business remain some what slightly affected.

The small business sector is most affected. It accounts for almost two thirds of all business robberies.
Unless this matter is addressed vigorously, it could perpetuate one of the apartheid fault-lines. We must urgently therefore, interact with all the relevant stakeholders, ourselves as the police, including the small and medium business sector itself, cluster departments, and communities, with the aim of reviewing the situation and developing short and long term measures.
We are aware that certain factors make small businesses particularly vulnerable to such robberies.
We need also to look at what technological measures can be introduced to assist in reducing the risks incurred by small business. Already joint SAPS/business initiatives are being piloted in Johannesburg Central and Tembisa and these focus specifically on robberies at small businesses. The lessons learnt from these two pilots will need to be rolled out to other areas of the country.

To address business robberies more generally we are working towards consolidating our partnership with business. This partnership seeks to jointly improve our efforts through, enhanced police and business crime prevention measures and improving alignment between the business sector and government. A crucial activity in this alignment process is greater information-sharing. We are confident that as we move forward with this partnership which focuses on a government-directed and led strategy supported by business, the negative trends we are witnessing currently will be reversed.
Cash-in-transit robberies declined by 2,3% during this period. This trend needs to be improved. To address this, over the last two months the department has focused considerable attention on the area of Cash-in-transit robberies. As recent events indicate, we are beginning to achieve some successes in terms of foiling some of the cash-in-transit activities. More work still needs to be done though.

We are engaging the business sector regarding the improvement of standards within the industry. Accordingly, we believe that the increase experienced since the end of the fiscal year is likely to start declining. 

We are deeply concerned about the increase in house robberies which, during the last financial year increased by 27.3%. This is one of the issues that is going to receive our most serious attention. 
It is one of the crimes that are the most intrusive and personalise the crime experience.  A person’s home is her/his last line of defence. Criminals will not be allowed to even think about going in there without facing dire consequences. We simply cannot tolerate a situation where people do not feel safe in their homes. House robberies affect communities from all walks of life.  

Under the leadership of the National Commissioner, an audit has started to look at the totality of available resources and the deployment thereof. This includes human and material resources, as well as the timing of our deployments.

Furthermore, we need greater engagement with communities. Through CPFs and other structures, communities should contribute in the development of policing programmes in their areas.
We have recently piloted an initiative in Honeydew involving the SAPS and Private Security companies.  This initiative is aimed at reducing the risks associated with house robberies. We are currently evaluating the lessons and successes. This effort will contribute to the process of further strengthening our approach to these crimes.

The final form of aggravated robbery that has increased significantly is that of hijacking involving both truck and car hijacking. Truck hijackings increased by 15.4% and car hijackings by 5%.
The trans-national crime phenomenon contributes significantly to vehicle hijackings. Most of these incidents occur in Gauteng because of its level of economic activity and its proximity to most land ports of entry. Many stolen vehicles are taken across into neighbouring countries. The police in South Africa work closely with our counterparts in the region to counter the activities of criminals.

As a result, there are at any point in time, many recovered cars and trucks that are kept in the police car pounds near the border ports of entry. Citizens should do more to claim these vehicles before they are crushed. 

The passing of the Second Hand Goods Act and the finalisation of regulations will indeed contribute to curtailing the local market for illicit vehicles.  In dealing with the local markets for stolen and hijacked vehicles we are also going to make greater use of technology to assist us in tracking and identifying such vehicles.  Technology such as Automated Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) has already been piloted within SAPS
Other interventions are on the pipeline. These include working with other regional police agencies to strengthen the implementation of regional protocols and agreements surrounding the movement of vehicles and increased capacity to embark on strategic joint operations such as Operation Salamanga.

With the National Commissioner having been elected as the head of SAPCCOR and the subsequent election of South Africa to chair the SAPCCOR Council of Ministers, we will be in a strong position to strengthen cooperation among regional police organisations and to ensure the prioritisation of cross border crimes.

Over the last year we have implemented a number of policing strategies to address house, business and vehicle robberies. Some of these strategies have yielded success. One such example is the introduction in some provinces of the War Room concept.  Through this concept, suspects involved in violent organised crime have been tracked, linked to crimes and arrested. 

Going forward, we are now looking to the newly formed Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation (DPCI) to consolidate these efforts. The DPCI has already achieved some successes. The recent arrest of a number of Cash-in transit robbers together with the recovery of firearms used in these crimes is an example. The Hawks also played an integral part in the successful drug seizure here and in the United Kingdom when they arrested a drug syndicate operating from Durban and seized drugs worth more than R500 million. This operation took place in the weekend of the 11 – 13 September 2009.

Sexual offences increased by 10.1%. While cognisant of the fact that at least in part, this increase can be attributed to changes in legislation, this is still not good.  Under the new Sexual Offenses Act, a number of new categories of crime are now included as part of sexual offenses. On this matter will only be able to do perform proper comparisons at the end of next year.

Despite the overall increase in sexual offenses, we are heartened by the slight decline in crimes against women and children. Nevertheless, we are still not satisfied. V
iolence against women and children is still prevalent in our society. This phenomenon militates against our national effort to create a caring and humane society, underpinned by values of human solidarity, justice, peace and development. 

The decision to close down special units that have focused on some of these crimes has been reversed. The SAPS is now auditing available capacity with a view to strengthening these units.  
The increase of 2.7% in stock theft is a matter of serious concern. This form of crime negatively impacts on the lives of people living in rural communities.

Our history is characterized among others, by deliberate neglect of rural areas. The birth of democracy saw a shift in approach. Government has now placed the issue of rural development high on the agenda. This must find concrete expression in our policing strategy. Once again the SAPS has begun the process of locating this as a key focal area. 

Another area that requires our attention is the increase in commercial crime. Commercial crime increased by 16%. Of further concern is that this increase is accompanied by an increase in the amount of money involved. Clearly this is an area that requires more focused attention by both business and government. We see the structural integration of crime intelligence and DPCI to be introduced soon as a key factor in addressing this work.

Areas where we have observed decreases include:
Murder and attempted murder. Both these forms of crime have been steadily declining over the last couple of years.  We are pleased that they continue to decline. During this period murder declined by 3.4% and attempted murder by 4.3%.
Assault common and assault Grievous Bodily Harm (GBH) have also declined over the last year. Assault common declined by 4.3% and assault GBH by 4.7%.  This is also encouraging.

The dramatic decline in bank robberies is welcome. During the last financial year the number of bank robberies declined by a 29.2%.  Some of the key factors contributing to this level of success include: the partnership developed between business and government and measures introduced by the banks themselves.

What is equally encouraging is that ATM attacks (which are not listed as a specific category in our crime statistics) also declined by 10%. The picture between January and September of this year would seem to indicate that this 10% decline, has now risen to a 75% decrease. Once again this decrease can be attributed to improved police responses and approaches as well as enhanced co-operation with the banking sector. 

One of the largest categories of aggravated robberies is that of street robberies. The decline in both street robberies and common robberies is undoubtedly a positive trend. During this period street robberies declined by 7.4% and common robberies by 8.9%. Despite this decline, the number of street robberies still remains unacceptably high and we need to ensure that we do not become complacent.  We must continue to give attention to this form of crime.  
There are various key areas which we believe will further contribute to reducing crime levels in the country.

Some of these measures include:
A more concerted focus on the role that intelligence can play in supporting our approach to crime. We have recognised that
intelligence should act as a nerve centre and has a crucial role to play in all aspects of policing. We are currently revitalizing our intelligence component. Part of this revitalisation includes ensuring the integration of intelligence into all aspects of policing. This will be anchored through the \DPCI. 
We have been working with the Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Development on amendments to Section 49 of the Criminal Procedure Act. We are at a stage of finalising this process. These amendments should go before Parliament during the 4th session of this year.  These changes are being made in order to strengthen the hand of the police in dealing with violent criminals. We are generally humbled by the support shown by the majority of the members of the public in this regard. It is important to reiterate that trigger happy members must not think that this is a license to kill. This is a measure aimed specifically at dealing with serious violent crime and dangerous criminals.  Alongside these changes, we have strengthened the Independent Complaints Directorate (ICD). We see this strengthening of the ICD as an important measure to ensure that changes to Section 49 are not abused. Legislation to this effect will be introduced in due course.

The government has focused attention on the revamping of the Criminal Justice System.   The basis for this is to ensure a far better integration of the different departmental role players in the Criminal Justice environment.  In this regard we have started to increase the number of detectives and focus on intensified and improved training. The work that has been done over the last year provides a strong base upon to build. We are also hoping that the
Criminal Law (Forensic Procedures) Amendment Bill will be finalised during the 4th session of parliament this year.   

Police alone cannot win the fight against crime. W
e therefore need to deepen our partnership with communities. In this regard, the Ministry has established a dedicated unit to focus on deepening the interaction with communities, civil society, business, faith-based organisations and the different spheres of government.

Management and control of some of our borders is a major challenge. Cabinet has recently agreed that, at least until 2010, the SANDF will be re-engaged in securing our borderlines.  The Justice Crime Prevention and Security Cluster has also been tasked by Cabinet to address the matter of border control.  The cluster is developing a comprehensive approach and plan to deal with this area.
The number of police officers who lose their lives in the line of duty is a matter of deep concern.  We are profoundly distressed by this situation.  On behalf of the department our sincere condolences go out to the families and loved ones of those officers who gave their lives so bravely. We will persist in addressing the dangers that face the women and men in blue.
Government is unshakeable in its resolve to fight crime.  In areas where there have been positive in-roads, we will continue to work hard and smart to entrench these successes. Accordingly, in areas where there have been some increases in crime, we shall work together to find solutions.

I thank you.



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