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SAFETY AND SECURITY PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE
20 October 2004
CRIME STATISTICS: INSTITUTE FOR SECURITY STUDIES BRIEFING
Chairperson: Ms M Sotyu (ANC)
Documents handed out:
Institute for Security Studies PowerPoint briefing: Crime and Crime Prevention in South Africa
The Institute for Security Studies (ISS) briefed the Committee on their newly released crime statistics. The factors contributing to crime included the youthful population, cycles of violence, rapid urbanisation, alcohol and drug abuse, the availability of guns, and possibly also income inequity and a weak criminal justice system. The decreasing rates of murder and car theft were accurate indicators of crime statistics in South Africa. Other types of crimes, such as rape, attempted murder and robbery, were not accurate indicators of crime because they were greatly influenced by under-reporting. The fact that the rape rate had not gone up was concerning as it indicated a lack of trust in the system. The provincial crime trends indicated a decrease in crime in most provinces, with the exception of the Western Cape. The Institute for Security Studies had conducted a National Victims of Crime Survey, in which people indicated that they felt that crime had increased in recent years. The Committee was also informed of the increasing state response to crime in South Africa.
Institute for Security Studies briefing
Mr Anton du Plessis (Programme Head: Crime and Justice Programme) outlined the factors contributing to crime in South Africa. He stated that there was no one cause of crime and that it could not be blamed on a weak criminal justice system.
An increase in reported crime was to be expected with the increased 'legitimacy' of the police force. There had been an increase in reported crime, and not necessarily a real increase in crime. Violent crime was the most concerning aspect. South African crime statistics seemed high in comparison to other states. In comparison with other developing countries, South Africa had much more accurate crime statistics.
Murder and car theft were often an accurate indicator of crime levels. Attempted murder was not because it was affected by confidence in the police. There was concern that the reported rape trend had not increased, because it indicated that there was not enough trust in the system. Aggravated robbery included the growing problem of cellphone theft, as well as hijackings and cash in transit heists. There had been an overall drop in farm attacks, but there had been an increase in Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal and the Free State.
Provincial crime trends differed. Poverty was not necessarily a cause of crime because crime was lowest in the poorest provinces. Policymakers and police needed to look at trends in the murder rate because it was an accurate indicator. In most categories, there had been a serious increase in crime in the Western Cape. Murder was generally confined to specific areas and communities. There were peaks in the murder and assault trends during the holiday seasons.
The Institute had expected a decrease in crime, but they did not expect such a large decrease in crime. There was concern about the sustainability of the decrease. The Annual Report was thin on analysis and explanation.
Mr Makubetse Sekhonyane (Senior Researcher) stated that departments outside the SAPS were involved with issues of crime.
Ms Duxita Mistry (Senior Researcher, Crime and Justice Programme) stated that victim surveys supplemented police crime statistics and they helped to understand crime and helped to understand who was at greatest risk of being victims of crime. Victim surveys were useful in determining the impact of crime on people's behaviour. They also helped to measure the public's views about police and court performance and accessibility.
Mr du Plessis stated that the victim surveys went into more detail than was being discussed. He reviewed the state response to crime. Some 89 pieces of legislation had been produced by the Justice Committee between 1994 and 1999. The Sexual Offences Bill and the Child Justice Bill needed to be passed by Parliament. Police and other departments needed to work on improving public perceptions of the system. Civilian and Parliamentary oversight of the police, particularly from the Secretariat, was not as strong as it should be. Most Departments were working collaboratively. However, it was necessary to ensure that working collaboratively did not become an excuse for poor implementation.
The Chairperson stated that, in light of her recent business trip to Germany with members of the Institute for Security Studies, she was convinced that South Africa was not as 'bad' as people thought it was. There were worse countries than South Africa.
Rev K Meshoe (ACDP) asked about questioning statistics and the allegations that South Africa was the crime capital of the world. He asked about the fact that crime and rape rates had not gone up. The increase in vigilantism had occurred because people believed that no action would be taken if they reported rape. He asked how the Institute balanced the increase in vigilantism with the assertion that crime was not increasing. He asked about the statement that most people did not think crime was motivated by real need. He asked if real need had been motivations, what were the real motivations?
Mr Du Plessis said that people should be reporting more rapes. That they were not was concerning.
Mr M Sekhonyane said that rape was not the only reason for vigilantism. Research demonstrated that people complained about poor feedback when they reported crime. He stated that poor feedback was related to the work of other Departments, including Housing. Where there was poor infrastructure, in informal settlements for example, it was difficult for police to do their work due to lack of street numbers. Police statistics did not have a category for vigilantism.
Ms D Mistry stated that they had assumed that poor people would more often site real need as a motivator for crime. They found that there was no link between the income of respondents and the likelihood of citing real need as a motivator of crime. Responses were people's perceptions, not necessarily the actual factors motivating crime. Greed and non-financial motives were cited more often as motivating factors for crime.
Mr M Booi (ANC) stated that the General Manager was disputing the UN analysis of poverty. He asked about policy trends that were supposed to be revisited.
Mr Du Plessis agreed that the UN crime statistics needed to be taken with a pinch of salt.
Mr Booi was surprised about the 64% of people who believed that crime was committed by people living in the area and that there was no analysis about the impact of community policing forums. He asked what was occurring with community policing forums and were they having an impact.
Mr Du Plessis stated that with regards to the 64% of people citing crime as having been committed by people living in the area, the data had demonstrated that a large number of people knew the perpetrator of crimes.
Ms Mistry spoke about a survey on community police forums. Less than half of respondents knew what a community police forum was, and half of those people stated that there was a community police forum in their area. People in rural areas were most likely to state that there was a community police forum in their areas.
Mr Sekhonyane stated that another study showed that when people knew about a community police forum, they were often unsure about what it did.
Mr Booi asked if there been improved relationships between National and Provincial Commissioners since 1994. He asked if it was possible to give more powers to Provincial Commissioners.
Mr Du Plessis noted that the National Commissioner had taken a greater role in reaching out into the provinces.
Ms Mistry addressed the issue of civilian oversight. She stated that provincial secretariats as a whole were working effectively, having had an impact on crime. The national secretariat was playing a diminished role.
Mr Booi stated that many people on the Committee believed that the police were the most monitored body. With all the monitoring, was there an implication that Parliament was not being able to respond with policy and to pick up oversight. Parliament needed to know if they were not doing their job adequately.
Ms Mistry agreed that there were a plethora of bodies monitoring the police, but that monitoring bodies needed to work together more effectively.
Mr Du Plessis warned that the challenge would be to ensure that the momentum of oversight continued. Parliamentary oversight needed to remain strong.
The Chairperson commented that she believed that foreigners were committing drug-related crimes, but that they were using South Africans to distribute drugs. She asked if they believed that South Africans were committing these crimes.
Mr R Jankielsohn (DA) asked about the success of the police services in terms of the conviction rates. He asked how many crimes had been reported and what were the conviction rates for the reported crimes. He questioned what successes there had been in terms of conviction rates. He queried to what extent confidence in the police services had contributed to underreporting. He noted an incidence of rape by police in a police cell in the Free State and extortion of sexual favours by police from prostitutes.
Mr Du Plessis stated that when looking at conviction rates, there were three types. These included conviction rates compared to how many cases were reported, conviction rates compared to how many cases were opened, and conviction rates compared to how many cases went to court and ended in conviction. Courts measured their performance on court cases that came to trial, which produced a higher conviction rate. Conviction rates should not have been the be all and end all of measuring performance. Rape was underreported, and there was still a negative perception about the system.
Mr Sekhonyane stated that there were focus group surveys that indicated that there were a number of reasons why rape was unreported. Rape may have been perpetrated within the family.
Mr A Gaum (NNP) stated that the presenters had indicated that one factor that contributed to crime was the breakdown of schools. He asked for elaboration on the meaning of this assertion.
Mr Sekhonyane stated that breakdown in schools had included teachers drinking alcohol, teachers engaging in sexual relationships with students, drugs in schools, and violence and gangs in schools. There was a need to think about crime prevention outside of the police, and schools provided a good site for crime prevention.
Mr Du Plessis emphasised the breakdown of institutions necessary for early childhood development.
Mr Gaum asked about crimes recorded by the SAPS, and the increase in reported or recorded crime. He asked what the reasons were for the increase in reported crime, and asked if it was related to an increase in knowledge about rights. He questioned whether there were improvements since 1994 in the way statistics were recorded. He said that Mr Du Plessis mentioned comparative reporting rates, and inquired how these rates were recorded and how they knew it was an increase in reporting as opposed to an increase in crime. He asked about the decrease in the murder trend, and questioned why murder had decreased while other crimes had increased.
Mr Du Plessis replied that all crimes had not gone up. As the system's legitimacy improved, there should have been an increase in reporting of traditionally underreported crimes. He stressed that murder and car theft trends had declined, and that they were indicators of true crime trends.
Mr Gaum addressed the issue of the high rate of crime in the Western Cape. He noted the high rates of crime in the Northern Cape. He asked why there was a high rate of crime in the Northern Cape and what were the specific reasons for high crime in the Western Cape.
Mr Du Plessis stated that crime in the Northern Cape was more violent crime, particularly murder and assault. He linked violent crime in the Northern Cape with alcohol abuse. In the Western Cape, high crime could be related to internal migration and to income inequality. There were also a number of factors, including infrastructure, schools, and urban planning, that contributed to violent crime.
Mr Gaum said that the presenters had indicated that many South Africans did not believe the crime statistics, and inquired why this was the case. He asked which statistics Mr Du Plessis believed.
Mr Du Plessis replied that there was a general sense of pessimism about crime statistics in South Africa. The crime statistics moratorium created a negative legacy about crime statistics. There needed to be more analysis in the Annual Report. He stated that he needed to do further research to better understand the surprising decreases in crime. He wondered how the police determined the ratios on which they calculated crime statistics.
Ms Mistry stated that the Police Crime Information Centre had employed a number of analysts who had been stationed at police stations and had been charged with monitoring the gathering, dissemination and verification of crime statistics. This certainly had improved the quality of crime statistics.
Mr Sekhonyane added that people did not believe crime statistics because they saw the national crime statistics, rather than local crime statistics.
Mr Gaum asked if the Institute had specific proposals to break the back of crime.
Mr Du Plessis replied that the ISS provided proposals. ISS tried to work with Departments through Memoranda of Understanding in order to get Departments to fully understand their research and to work towards policy development. The ISS website, www.iss.co.za, contained the Institute's reports.
Mr S Mahote (ANC) commented that it had been confirmed that the Provincial Secretariat was working well with the National Secretariat. He stated that it was necessary to look at the role of both parties. He questioned the concept that people viewed crime as being not motivated by need. He said that there were contradicting terms, because it was a judgement statement when one stated that a crime was or was not motivated by need.
Mr Du Plessis noted that the data was based on people's perceptions, and not necessarily the actual motivating factors of crime. The ISS signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Department of Correctional Services to do two studies. The first would investigate why people re-offend. The second would be a focus group with prisoners asking why they committed offences in the first place.
Mr Mahote noted that farm attacks were going down, and queried if this was because there was an infrastructure that dealt with these crimes. He asked what was included under the category of farm attacks.
Ms Mistry stated that they had interviewed perpetrators of farm attacks, and they found that the primary motive was robbery. Very few farm attacks were politically or racially motivated. Farm attacks had a broad definition, which included housebreaking and murder occurring on the farm. It included an attack on a person on the farm and his or her property.
Mr Sekhonyane noted that stock theft was a separate category within the crime statistics.
Mr R King (DA) stated in Afrikaans that the youthfulness of the population and the increase of HIV/AIDS would cause an increase in orphans, who might find their ways to the streets. This would have an impact on crime in the future. He wondered if the presenters could comment on this phenomenon.
Mr Jankielsohn (DA) translated into English.
Mr Sekhonyane stated that it was his opinion that it was unfair to label orphans as potential criminals. There was a need to be careful when attaching this label, as there was no conclusive evidence at the moment.
Ms J Sosibo (ANC) asked what it was about the age group between 15 and 25 that made them contribute to crime.
Mr Sekhonyane stated that the youth population was disproportionately victims or perpetrators of crime. There was a study conducted with magistrates which demonstrated that a large number of people who came before them were between the ages of 16 to 25.
Mr Du Plessis addressed the age demographics in South Africa, noting that the age distribution was very young, due partly to HIV/AIDS.
Ms Sosibo asked what was meant by a weak criminal justice system.
Mr Du Plessis answered that crime was often blamed on a weak criminal justice system; however, he did not believe that it was a major factor contributing to crime.
The Chairperson stated that delegates from Germany were shocked by the phenomenon of street children. HIV/AIDS posed a problem for crime.
Mr Mahote asked if there would be a presentation on the Chairperson's and ISS trip to Germany.
The Chairperson noted that the report would be compiled by the delegation and would be presented to the Committee when it was ready.
The meeting was adjourned.
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