Crime stats: What cops really should be doing
Focus should be on gathering intelligence on street robberies, which most often lead to violent crime
A lack of critical detail in police crime statistics and the dropping of certain crime categories have been criticised by criminologists who are concerned that it is done to avoid accountability over crimes which could easily be policed and prevented.
On Tuesday, as SA’s annual crime statistics were released, Police Minister Bheki Cele said the country’s citizens were living in a “war zone”.
Criminologist and former SAPS chief statistician Chris de Kock said concern was not so much with what was included in the statistics, but rather what was dropped from the report.
“Street and public robberies are gone from the statistics. Street robberies are probably one of the most important crime categories in the statistics because they form the biggest proportion of aggravated robberies. They account for more than 50% of aggravated robberies, with crimes such as house, business, bank and cash-in-transit robberies accounting for a far smaller percentage.”
Street robberies, said De Kock, often preceded other crimes such as murder and attempted murder.
“With a lack of subcategories in important crimes such as murder – such as murder occurring from a street robbery – it is incredibly difficult to form strategies to combat these crimes.
“You cannot combat all murders with one strategy. For operational purposes it is important to have an idea of the different kinds of murders which occur, be it murders during house robberies or murders at taverns, so specific strategies can be developed to fight these crimes.”
He said some subcategories of crime, such as street robberies, are more policeable, but “as police management you do not want to answer questions on why these crimes are increasing”.
“It is all too easy to say a policeman cannot stop domestic and tavern murders because they cannot be in every home or near every tavern, but if you have a grasp of what crimes are occurring where and when you can develop strategies to combat specific crimes.”
De Kock said the problem came down to the basics of policing.
“At police stations there is no proper focus on intelligence-based crime prevention. By doing docket analysis at station level you develop intelligence capabilities which allow commanders to identify crime hot spots, be they certain streets, taxi ranks, bus stations or parks.
“You can then develop strategies to see what resources need to be focused where.”
The problem is a seeming lack of interested in doing something about crime, or people who have no proper knowledge on how to use intelligence, which is costing people their lives, he said.
“If you want a full picture of aggravated robberies, along with heists, hijackings, and bank, business and house robberies, you also need to include street robberies.
“Street robberies, which affect the poorest of the poor, are the litmus test of visible and intelligence-driven policing because if you have police on the street, it means other violent crimes, such as murder, will decrease.”
Chandre Gould, a senior researcher for the violence prevention programme at the Institute for Security Studies, said 2.6% of police stations dealt with 20% of the country’s murders.
“This shows that there needs to be targeted policing. Good targeted policing involves knowing what the problems are and putting the resources down to address the issues.”
The stats show murder has reached an all-time high since 2008, with 20,336 people killed in the 2017-2018 financial year. The killing of children and women is on the rise. The number of girls murdered rose by 10.9% from 265 to 294. The murder of boys rose by 20.4% from 574 to 691.
It also showed 2,930 women were murdered, compared to 2,639 in the previous period.
The statistics show 62 farm murders were reported in the past financial year – this included farm owners and workers.
In a breakdown on the motivation for murders, the statistics shows the majority of crime perpetrated per province:
• Gauteng: mob justice, taxi violence, police killings, illicit mining and farm attacks;
• Western Cape: gang violence, mob justice and taxi related attacks;
• Eastern Cape: gang and taxi violence and police killings;
• Free State: illicit mining;
• Mpumalanga and Limpopo: mob justice and farm attacks;
• North West: gang violence and farm attacks;
• KwaZulu-Natal: mob justice, political unrest and police killings; and
• Northern Cape: farm attacks.
The primary murder weapons of choice are firearms (41.3% of instances), knives (30.7%), sharp instruments (11.1%), stones (3.2%), and bottles or bottle necks (1%).