Current Crime Trends in South Africa and Future Projections: briefing by Institute for Security Studies

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05 June 2002
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Meeting Summary

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Meeting report

5 June 2002

Chairperson: Mr M George (ANC)

Documents handed out:
Institute for Security Studies: Part 1 of Powerpoint Presentation
Institute for Security Studies: Part 2 of Powerpoint Presentation
Institute for Security Studies: Part 3 of Powerpoint Presentation
[As this was a large file, it has been broken into 3 parts]

The ISS briefed the Committee on the statistical representation of crime trends in South Africa since January 1994 to September 2001. Comparatively speaking, Johannesburg had the highest murder rates with London showing the least murder rate per 100000 people. It was graphically demonstrated that during this period crime increased by 26% but murder had decreased while aggravated robbery increased by almost 40%. The discussion was on questions of statistical clarity and causal relationship and factors intervening in causing crime.

Three delegates represented the Institute for Security Studies (ISS), namely Ms Antoinette Louw (Programme Manager: Criminal Justice Project), Mr Martin Schönteich (Senior Researcher in Criminal Justice Project), and Mr Clarence Tshitekere (Parliamentary Liaison Officer).

Ms Louw introduced his part of the presentation by indicating that the source of the data she was about to present was from the International Police Organisation (INTERPOL), the South African Police Services (SAPS) and Statistics South Africa (StatsSA) National Victims of Crime Survey of 1999.

She started off with murder rates and indicated that South Africa had the highest rate as reported by Interpol in 1998. She explained that murder rates are commonly use around the world because murder was a crime that had a common international definition. Comparatively speaking, Johannesburg had the highest murder rates with London showing the least murder rate per 100000 people. It was graphically demonstrated that between January 1994 and September 2001 crime increased by 26% but that murder had decreased although aggravated robbery increased by almost 40%. Mr Schönteich also showed comparative crime rates per province.

Mr Schönteich added that the risk of becoming a crime victim varied by income, age, social environment and where one lived. He explained that the reasons for high crime levels in South Africa were typical of international experiences. These reasons include: periods of socio-economic and political transition, vicious cycles of violence, proliferation of firearms, organisised crime, youthful population, a weak criminal justice system, rapid urbanisation and income inequality. He ended his presentation by highlighting some future scenarios of crime amongst which was HIV/AIDS orphans who would be susceptible criminal offences because of poverty.

Mr Botha (DP) could not understand the causal relationship between South Africa's highest crime rate because he pointed out that Zimbabwe had a lower crime rate but had greater income inequality than South Africa.

Ms Louw explained that South Africa fitted all the seven internationally established reasons for high crime rates, while Zimbabwe did not fit in all of them. The seven reasons were listed during the presentation.

Mr Botha asked if the ISS had an international comparison of the numbers of prosecution, convictions, referrals and crimes record.

Mr Schönteich said that there were no comparative statistics but from the smattering statistics that he knew from England, Wales and America, South Africa fared better than those countries.

Mr Zondo (ANC) asked if the ISS had statistics showing murders on South African farms.

Mr Schönteich said that the murder of farmers was higher than the national average and that the victims of murder in the farms were usually above 65 years of age.

Mr Zondo also asked if the ISS had statistics on money laundering, drug trafficking and gum smuggling.

Mr Schönteich there was no information on money laundering and gun smuggling. He added that the only information about drugs is those that were seized by police.

A Member commented that it was contradictory that while crime rates were increasing there was a shrinking police force.

Ms Louw explained that hiring more police was not a sufficient solution. Instead she argued that the police force need to be skilled to increase its policing and investigative capacity.

Mr Booi (ANC) commented that there were many of our society's aspects that needed to be transformed in order to combat and prevent crime. Amongst them was the transformation of the education system, moral regeneration and eradication of poverty.
Ms Louw agreed with these points.

Ms Van Wyk (UDM) wanted to know the dates the graphical representation of statistics of crime victims who knew the offender and wanted to know if the ISS had no recent statistics of crime trends in South Africa. Mr Schönteich said that the crime victims statistics were collected in 1997 and published the following year. He explained that the statistics were ranging from 1994-2001.

Ms Van Wyk asked if the ISS was aware that the number of prosecutions, convictions, referrals and crimes could be carried over to the following year and thereby create a problem of double counting.
Mr Schönteich agreed with the observation and added that such statistics tended to be stable though.

Ms Van Wyk also asked if the ISS knew where the problem of non-conviction lay.

Mr Schönteich explained that the problems were with the Department of Correctional Service and the SAPS in terms of forensic capacity, human resources and resource capacity. He added that he was writing a paper on the subject.

Rev Meshoe could not understand how some township in the Western Cape experienced more crime than any other when they were all hit by poverty and inequality.

Ms Louw explained that there were other confounding factors such as gangsters, access to guns and geographical locations.

Mr Kgauwe (ANC) asked if firearms amnesty made any impact on the crime rate.

Mr Schönteich said that it did not make any difference.

Mr Kgauwe also asked how the ISS defined theft.

Mr Schönteich said that theft was difficult to disaggregate and that it was only from police dockets that one could find what was allegedly stolen.

Mr Kgauwe also asked if there were any changes in murder rates in Gauteng and KZN.

Mr Schönteich said that the murder rates had decreased since the end of politically motivated violence in the two provinces.

Mr Maziya (ANC) was not satisfied that the ISS relied on SAPS statistics and also asked the basis of the ISS's HIV/AIDS statistics.

Mr Schönteich explained that it was international practice to collect crime statistics form the police and the crime victims. He added that the HIV/AIS statistics were taken form the Department of Health and he felt that they were credible.

Mr Maziya asked if the ISS believed in the training of investigation officers or in the alternative argument of placing a lawyer to assist in investigations.

Ms Louw explained that detective work was a specialised skill that was refined with experienced. She therefore thought it was best to train investigation officer and leave the lawyer to represent clients.

Mr Maziya noted that the ISS presentation said nothing about child abuse. Mr Schönteich explained that half of rape victims were under the age of eighteen.

Mr Vadi (ANC) asked if the ISS knew of situations involving police accomplices. Mr Schönteich said that it was difficult to know such information.

Mr Booi (ANC) asked if the ISS had considered the role of neighboring countries and immigrants (particularly Nigerians) in crime statistics.

Ms Louw said that the issue was contentious and also linked to xenophobia. However, she agreed that Nigerian immigrants had a monopoly on drug trafficking in Hillbrow, Gauteng. She added that there was co-operation with neighboring countries to fight cross border crimes.

Mr Booi asked the opinion of the ISS to community policing. Ms Louw said that would be a good idea but that the ISS had no formal comment without baseline research.

The Chairperson interjected and commented there were instances of sector policing where police knew the community so much that they became corrupt.

Mr Schönteich and Ms Louw explained that sector policing had a risk of corrupting police but that the risk did not outweigh the benefit of a police that was familiar with the community and its environment.

A Member asked how the ISS understood Section 49 of the SAPS Act.

Mr Schönteich said that the section was controversial in practice. He understood the issue being when to shoot if a suspect was fleeing. He thought that the section would not be controversial if police had the skill to use and handle firearms.

Mr Botha observed that the SAPS was too over-managed and centralised and that it could be one of factors causing inefficiency in providing resource capacity. Ms Louw agreed that the SAPS was over-managed. She said that it would be a mammoth task to try and decentralise it now because it had a long history of centralisation.

The Chairperson commented that the ISS should try and investigate the issue of police suicide, and in particular police murdering their immediate family.

The meeting was adjourned.


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