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SAFETY AND SECURITY PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE
05 September 2007
CRIME STATISTICS 2006/07: SAPS BRIEFING
Chairperson: Ms M Sotyu (ANC)
Documents handed out:
South African Police Service (SAPS): Crime Statistics briefing
2006/07 Crime Statistics available at SAPS website
Information Management: South African Police Service
Audio recording of meeting
The South African Police Services (SAPS) briefed the Committee on crime statistics for the past financial year. The statistics indicated an increase in comparison to the previous years, starting in 2001. The Committee was dismayed at the apparent failure of sector policing. Areas of contention included the accuracy of the statistics, especially in relation to townships and informal settlements and the lack of convictions. It was felt that communities, especially in the informal settlements, generally did not have faith in the SAPS and therefore did not bother reporting crimes. The Committee felt that inadequate reasons were provided for the increase in crime and that the security industry strike was not sufficient explanation for the increase. The issue of correct budget use was discussed. The Committee stressed the need for the SAPS to interact with it in order to ensure the implementation and maintenance of effective crime fighting in South Africa.
South African Police Service (SAPS): Crime Statistics briefing
Senior Superintendent Nkoshilo Seimela (SAPS – Crime Statistician) briefed the Committee on the crime statistics for the financial year April 2006 – March 2007. A distinction was made between contact crimes and non-contact crimes. The presentation focused on contact crimes with a further distinction made for social contact crimes (incorporating murder, rape, assault with grievous bodily harm, common robbery and robbery with aggravating circumstances). It was found that most reports of rape, murder and assault with grievous bodily harm occurred during periods of peak social activity, that is, during summer and particularly on weekends. The crime ratios were compared with previous years indicating an increase over the current period in comparison with other years. A list of the stations that had the highest number of reports for each type of crime was provided.
The Chairperson stated that she thought that the presentation would include provincial break-downs of crime statistics. She commented that she was impressed with the Mamelodi East station and felt that it should be used as a model.
Ms D Kohler-Barnard (DA) noted that in 80% of murders the perpetrator is known to the victim. She asked why then was the detection, arrest and charge rate is so low. She requested an update on the computer error that had led to the false decline in Eastern Cape rape statistics. Clarity on the reporting of rape cases was also requested.
Senior Superintendent Seimela acknowledged that there was a problem about convictions, however with regard to warrants there was a very high rate of suspect conviction. He added that it had to be looked at in terms of relations, because there was a correlation between murder and common robbery statistics.
Mr M Booi (ANC) stated that they were only hearing about detection in relation to road-blocks and this implied the police were doing their job only during road-blocks and that the majority of crimes were derived from reports made by the public – not pro-active policing. He asked how much the current internal rearrangements impacted on policing. Was sector policing a failure as it appeared that public reporting comprised the majority of social contact crimes, not pro-active policing?
Commissioner Ray Lalla (Head Crime Intelligence – SAPS) replied that sector policing could not be implemented overnight; he stressed the need for community cooperation. He cited Khayelitsha as having a decrease in murder. Serious and violent crime-ridden stations were in the townships. The lack of resources led to an inability to provide effective service to the entire area on limited resources. SAPS core function was crime prevention. Crime prevention was difficult to demonstrate as one cannot record crimes that did not occur due to prevention of said crime. This presentation looked at reactive crimes and if pro-active action was needed, it was taken. He felt that the impact of the internal transfers would be felt within the next four months; however it should impact positively on policing.
Mr M Moatshe (ANC) referred to the contact crime stats and asked if SAPS did not pick up perpetrators that were unknown to the victim. He asked whether ATM robberies were classed as robbery and whether the statistics included crimes committed in prisons.
Commissioner Lalla replied that they extrapolated the figures for murders from a sample of dockets to provide an estimate of the proportion of perpetrators that were known to the victim. The statistics did include crimes committed in prisons and ATM robberies were classed under robbery.
Ms A Van Wyk (ANC) stated that there was a very low conviction rate for murder and hence they had a very serious problem. It seemed to her that sector policing was a failure. House and business robbery was increasing when sector policing should be reducing this. She asked when they were going to see results from the priority stations.
Commissioner Lalla replied that sector policing would take time to be effective and they had outlined exactly which priority stations are problematic.
The Chairperson asked why sector policing was not making an impact on the reduction of crime. It seemed that sector-policing was not being taken seriously as its budget was being utilised to fund various other activities. She reiterated that visible policing was the SAPS core business. The accuracy of these statistics was questioned, especially in light of the Chairperson’s discovery that many communities did not bother reporting crimes to the police due to their lack of faith in results.
Commissioner Lalla stated that he was not there to provide excuses and defend something that was faulty. Sector policing and visible policing is a process that is needed and that is taking place. Over the past number of years there had been a slight decline in crime and that it had escalated during the period under review, this was partially due to the effect of the security industry strike and the appearance of fly-by-night companies. This had had a ripple effect on crime. A portion of the visible policing budget was being utilised to pay reservists. The payment of reservist has led to an improvement in policing.
Ms Van Wyk stated that as an introduction Commissioner Lalla’s statement was ridiculous and that it contextualised his answer in a very bad light.
The Chairperson voiced her disbelief that social contact crimes were due to the strike, and stated that it was bizarre that the strike had led to an increase in rape. She asserted that Commissioner Lalla was putting the failure of sector policing down to the strike.
Commissioner Lalla replied that there was a conflicting expectation in terms of rape with non-government organisations (NGOs). A decrease in rape statistics was viewed by NGOs as indicating underreporting but an increase was obviously unacceptable. He cited the need for a mechanism between NGOs and SAPS in order to effectively receive reports of rape.
Mr Booi stated that as he was a resident of Nyanga and that was where he did his research. He felt that the lack of sector policing in informal settlements effectively sent the message that the police were not concerned with those areas. He stated that Commissioner Lalla’s statistics were inaccurate due to this. The lack of the reporting of crimes was due to the lack of access to police stations in such areas. The security industry strike was irrelevant to the localities of the seven murder-saturated police stations as they were all in previously disadvantaged areas.
The Chairperson stated that this was all linked to visible policing.
Western Cape Provincial Commissioner Mzwandile Petros agreed that the statistics did not talk about the streets in Brown’s Farm. In squatter camps that were inaccessible to police vehicles they had to rely on the community, murder could not be hidden. Sector policing was supposed to address the issue of poor access to a police station.
Mr S Mahote (ANC) commented that most of their questions were based on visits to police stations. He noted that this meeting concerned statistics, but asked from where they came. He requested clarity on the training involved in sector policing, what new training was being implemented?
Mr S Ntuli stated that when the community mobilised itself, the police felt they could relax and that visible policing funds could be used elsewhere. He questioned the link between car sales and hijacking and questioned whether the police actually checked the documentation of used car sellers.
Commisioner Petros acknowledged the need for vehicle impoundment and stated that they were working on this. The budget was allocated to stations and the station commander was subsequently responsible for using said budget to cover expenses for the year. A large portion of the visible policing budget was distributed at a provincial level.
Mr Moatshe stated that the presentation should have included the figures for unknown perpetrators. He asked if the statistics covered the entire country or only selected stations.
Commissioner Petros replied that they used SAPS statistics and another set of population statistics to arrive at their dataset. The data was applicable to the entire country.
Ms Van Wyk stated that she understood the implementation of sector policing to be complete according to national level executive. She asked when the fruits of investment in sector policing would come to bear. She also asked what was being done to increase police intelligence.
Commissioner Petros responded that the benefits of sector policing would be available when next they brief the Committee. He stated that unless external upliftment occurred in areas such as Khayelitsha, the problems endemic to such areas would remain such as the lack of transport. There were murders that could be prevented and those that could not. The need to prevent the former was of paramount importance.
Commissioner Lalla explained that SAPS interacted with various security agencies, including the National Intelligence Agency regularly. He stated that many groups have been infiltrated in the cash-in-transit heist sphere. A major problem was language as many of these groups that exhibit a very high degree of criminal sophistication, comprised of ex-soldiers from surrounding African countries. He reiterated the SAPS lack of appropriate language skills needed to infiltrate these groups. Despite this, new skills and better training was happening.
Ms Kohler-Barnard (DA) found the statistics disingenuous and questioned the lack of cumulative statistics like all other Interpol members.
Commissioner Lalla replied that he would refer the statistics issue to the police executive as he agreed that they were misleading.
Commissioner Petros reiterated the need to refer the statistics matter to the executive.
Mr R King (DA) asked whether carjacking referred to hijacking or stealing cars.
Commissioner Lalla replied that the term carjacking referred to hijacking.
The Chairperson stated that if the department could not satisfy the Committee’s questions, the next step would involve getting the executive (Minister) to come. The department indicated that sector policing policy was implemented, however the reality proved to be very different. She stated that the Committee had questioned the community and that the issues derived from these interactions had not been addressed by the presentation.
Mr Booi repeated the view that the statistics were too generalised. He highlighted the need to address the socio-economic issues interrelated with crime, including the lack of access to informal settlements by the police. He questioned the relevance of the summer/winter rape statistics and asked if rapists stayed at home in winter. He raised the issue of the use of the visible policing budget to pay for the trip to the West Indies by members of the SAPS Special Task Force and stated that proper budget allocation was necessary. He requested an honest accounting of financial allocation for projects in order to prevent issues such as the West Indian trip.
Senior Superintendent Seimela replied that a relationship existed between periods of peak social interaction where the use of alcohol and drugs occurred and rape.
Bishop L Tolo (Portfolio Committee on Correctional Services – ANC) commented that the issues raised so far were pertinent. He raised the issue of police response time to crimes, citing the occasion when he had to phone the Committee Chairperson in order to get a response to an accident in Limpopo Province. He cited events such as these as contributing to the public’s lack of faith and subsequent lack of reporting to the police. He stressed the need for community evaluation as the issues raised were a reality on the ground.
The Chairperson thanked Bishop Tolo and replied that a parliamentary committee chairperson should not have to deal with operational issues. She cited ill discipline amongst SAPS personnel. This she had personally seen first hand. She stated that this was a matter of attitude, not resources. She applauded the interchange between the Committee and the SAPS, reiterating the need for the SAPS to work in conjunction with the Committee. The SAPS was thanked for its input.
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