By Augustine Ehikioya
South Africa, just like other major countries in the world, has gotten its own share of crimes and criminality.
Many of its Provinces have faced crimes almost on a daily basis including murder, sexual offences, assaults, carjackings, cash-in-transit heists, robberies, assassination attempts on political rivals, proliferation of illegal small and medium arms and ammunition.
But the Crime Statistic figures released at the weekend, covering October to December 2022, claimed that there is great improvement in some crimes in comparison with the same periods in the previous years.
The Crime Statistics report made available to Security Watch Africa (SWA), which was based only on crimes reported to the South African Police Service (SAPS), claimed that there were increases in contact crimes like murder, assault and robberies, while there was significant improvement in crimes detected as a result of Police action.
It attributed the impressive performances to well preempted increased festive season activities and proper deployment of Police to identified areas of concern.
Boosting Police’s link to communities towards fighting crimes, the report said that to date a total of 1,156 Police Stations in the country have active Community Policing Forums (CPFs).
For contact sexual offences, which was 341 between October to December in 2018, and 361 for the same period in 2019, and 362 in 2020, and 280 in 2021, came down to 209 in 2022, representing 25.4℅ reduction.
Also robbery at non-residential premises, which was 5,314 in the same period in 2018, and 5,426 in 2019, and 5,052 in 2020, and 5,138 in 2021, came down to 4,983 in 2022, representing 3℅ reduction.
In the cases of robbery of cash-in-transit for the same period was 35 in 2018, was 39 in 2019, was 65 in 2020, was 60 in 2021, and came down to 57 in 2022, representing 5% reduction.
A further break down of the statistics for October to December 2022 showed that 52,711 people were arrested for various crimes including murder, sexual offences, assaults, carjackings and other serious crimes, during the festive season.
It also showed that 7,555 people were murdered between October and December 2022.
Out of the 7,555 people murdered within the three months, the report said that 3,144 people were killed with firearm, 2,498 people were killed with other weapons such as knifes, sharp and blunt instruments, bricks and in many cases, bare hands.
The report disclosed that 65,519 firearms have been permanently destroyed in the past twelve months alone.
From October to December 2022, the statistics showed that 4,992 suspects were arrested for Gender Based Violence and Femicide (GBVF) related crimes.
During the same period, 71 accused were said to have been handed down 89 life sentences.
It showed further that 219 accused were sentenced between 1 to 9 years imprisonment, culminating to a total of 1,079 years behind bars, while 143 accused were sentenced between 10 to 19 years imprisonment, which is a combined sentence of 2,063 years imprisonment.
Also, the statistics said 67 other accused were collectively sentenced to 20 years and more for GBVF related crimes.
The report disclosed that a total of 5,935 rape incidents took place at the residence of the perpetrator/victim, including residence known by victims/perpetrator, which are family, friends and neighbours.
Over 13,000 illegal foreigners, according to the report, were arrested, during the period of October to December 2022.
Speaking during the release of the Quarter 3 Crime Statistics in Cape Town on the 17th of February, 2023, the Police Minister General, Bheki Cele (MP) said “This reporting period, includes the Festive Season period, where for the first time since COVID-19 reached our shores in 2020, there were no restrictions.
“Essentially, this is the first festive season with increased movement of people and high number of social gatherings including family gatherings and celebrations.
“We pre-empted the increased Festive season activities and the deployment of Police to identified areas of concern were ramped up.
“The deployment included the Project 10 Thousand new Police Constables who have and continue to increase the Police’s footprint on the ground.”
He added “The 3rd Quarter Crime Figures show that while there are increases in contact crimes such as murder, assault and robberies, there is significant improvement in crimes detected as a result of Police action.
“There are signs of improvements in crimes such as cash-in-transit heists and bank robberies which have reported decreases in the period of reporting.
“These decreases are attributed to increased Police visibility through patrols, stop and search operations, vehicle check-points and road blocks.
“The SAPS is and will continue to intensify intelligence led operations to take down individuals or organized criminals hell-bent on terrorizing communities.
“We are enriched by the stabilization of the Crime Intelligence Division of the SAPS, through the appointment of a Divisional Commissioner with a wealth of policing and investigative experience, Lieutenant General Khumalo.”
Going further, he said “While the crime figures we are releasing today don’t paint an overall positive picture of the crime situation in our country.
“They do however, show that Police are pushing back on criminality, through visible policing and disruptive operations.
“Plainly put, the More Boots on the Ground was not just a slogan, their impact has been felt and starting to make a difference in our communities,” he stated.
The Police Minister General went on “Investigations into mass shootings in the Eastern Cape, Gauteng and Kwa Zulu- Natal have resulted in arrests in Bityi and Nomzamo Pietermaritzburg and KwaNobuhle respectively.
“We welcome the six out of the eight life sentences handed down by the Pietermaritzburg High Court on the Glebelands 8, who were behind the killing spree at the Durban hostel.
“The Political Task Team investigating murders in KZN continues to arrest hit men and those who order assassinations on their political rivals.’
He disclosed that the Police Service is also involved in in-house cleaning and ridding the service of officers who choose to partner with rogue criminal elements.
To this end, he said, 46 Police Officers have been dismissed for various transgressions in this financial year.
Stressing that Police alone cannot drive out criminality on South African streets, alleyways, homes, schools, places of leisure and worship, he called for increased collaboration and cooperation from communities.
“We call on communities to take charge and be allies in safety. We are calling on residents of Mfuleni, Alexandra, Inanda, Seshego, Mitchells Plein, Diepsloot Umlazi and all the other policing areas with stubborn crime patterns, to be agents and activists against crime.
“Someone Somewhere, Somehow – Knows Something! Yes, it is the job of Police to prevent, combat and investigate crime, assisted by better environmental design and better social conditions. A community-centered approach in the prevention and combating of crime will yield better results.
“We call on all South Africans to be part of a Safety Partnership between civil society and community structures, religious and other organized groupings, business and law enforcement.
“The Safety Partnership means you are no longer a spectator but an active player in keeping your community safe,” he said.
Noting that 10,000 more recruits will be trained in 2023 and join the Police Service at the end of the year, he declared that the capacitation and resourcing of the SAPS to improve its services at station level is on-going in response to the yearnings of South Africans.
According to him, discussions are underway within the Security Cluster to tighten the gaps and loopholes in the Criminal Justice System, including the bail regime and the role parolees and ex-offenders are playing in the overall safety of citizens.
Disclosing that engagement is on to check the issues of porous borders, he said “The SAPS management and the Ministry have also had promising engagements with our counterparts from Lesotho and Mozambique, around cross-border crimes and intensifying our collaboration on policing interventions.
Stressing that other technological advancements will be deployed to ensure that not a single call to the Police is unattended to, he said that Operation Vulindlela Reforms will also see to building and maintenance of Police Stations to ensure equal access to Police services.
On firearms, he said, “The SAPS will continue to intensify operations to detect and remove illegal firearms and ammunition, whilst legislation intervention in the Amendment to the Firearms Control Act, to address the availability of guns in our communities, is underway.”
Pointing out that funding is also a major challenge, he said “We are responding to the shortage of vehicles in the SAPS, to improve the everyday work of Police Officers on the ground.
“More patrol vans and high-powered vehicles have been ordered, to supplement visible policing and specialized units such as highway patrols, flying squad, to respond effectively to crime, he said.
Concluding, he said, “Police are using what is at their disposal amid budget cuts and growing population to Police a violent society. We thank the President and Treasury for the new approach in prioritizing the massive recruitment in the SAPS and further capacitation of specialised units.
“This intervention will soon yield positive results in the overall fight against crime. The truth of the matter is that poverty and inequality and unemployment coupled by little to no basic services is impeding on policing.
“That is why the Integrated Crime and Violence Prevention Strategy, recently adopted by government to address the drivers of crime, must be fast tracked in order to boost safety and security in communities and the country as a whole.
“We are calling on all Provincial Commissioners to take a queue from Gauteng and intensify their Provincial operations, focusing on troublesome stations and remove them from the TOP 30 high crime stations, both nationally and provincially.
“We have no doubt that Legislation amendments, policing reforms and renewed and strengthened Crime Intelligence and partnerships with communities will deal crime a heavy blow,” he stated.
While welcoming the improvements recorded in South Africa in some crime categories in the last three months of the year 2022, it is hoped that these will be sustained.
Also with all the strategies and planning being put in place and the tackling of other critical factors, it is hoped that the successes recorded so far will be extended to other hard-to-crack crimes in South Africa.
All hands must, definitely, be on deck and everything must be done to make South Africa crime-free.