Murder up, arrests down, but SAPS ‘OK’

2014-10-16 00:00

CAPE TOWN — In the same year that murders increased by five percent, the SA Police Service caught significantly fewer killers than in the previous year.

Despite this worrying revelation in the SAPS annual report, commissioner Riah Phiyega tried to reassure the parliamentary portfolio committee on police that the service is not losing the battle against crime.

It was Phiyega’s first report to Parliament since the release of the most recent crime statistics last month.

According to the report, murder is one of six categories that have increased year on year.

Despite this increase, the report says that 3 000 fewer murderers were arrested.

In 2012/13 17 145 people were arrested for murder, but in 2013/14 just 14 413 were held.

Freedom Front Plus MP Pieter Groenewald told Phiyega and her delegation that it seemed South Africa was losing the battle against crime. “I hope I am wrong,” he said.

In answer, head of detectives Lieutenant-General Vinesh Moonoo said South Africa isn’t doing badly in comparison with countries like Mexico, which is the centre of a brutal drug cartel war.

“We aren’t where we want to be, but we haven’t lost the battle yet,” Moonoo said.

Phiyega chimed in that she believes “we haven’t lost the war”.

“This year there were six areas where we didn’t fare well, but crime is dynamic. It always rises and falls, but I don’t think it is a battle in which the state is a complete loser,” she said.

Statistically speaking, there were “some successes” but attention had to be given to people’s perceptions.

“We are looking at Statistics SA’s figures on South Africans’ crime perceptions. We are winning the battle, but people don’t feel that we are,” she said.

According to Phiyega, in the reporting year, the SAPS arrested 1,7 million people and reached 73% of its targets.

Phiyega and Moonoo could not explain why murder arrests fell while murders increased.

Moonoo said the service’s critical shortage of detectives could play a role.

The SAPS lost 1 000 of its 25 000 detectives over the course of the year and is still busy trying to fill the posts.

THE police’s detective capcity is not what it should be, which could be a factor in the declining number of murder arrests.

Dr Rudolph Zinn, a former police officer who now lectures at Unisa, said the SAPS has grown over the past decade or so from 75 000 members to 154 000, but the number of detectives has not kept pace.

He said the SAPS has about 25 000 detectives, of whom only about 13 000 actually investigate cases.

“About 5 000 to 6 000 are still waiting for detective training,” he said.

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