News24

Cele slammed over crime stats

2009-08-03 11:56

Cape Town - The DA has called on the new national police commissioner Bheki Cele to retract his statement calling for a moratorium on issuing crime statistics.

According to Dianne Kohler Barnard, the DA's police spokesperson, "It quite frankly beggars belief that just a few days into his new job, the police commissioner would make such a blatantly politically motivated and completely counterproductive announcement, and the commissioner must re-evaluate his stance on this matter right away."

On SAfm's After Eight Debate, Cele said he supported a moratorium for three reasons. Firstly, criminals use the statistics, and "If you don't release, it gives you the better edge to fight the crime".

Secondly, Interpol and other countries that might be South Africa's peers in Central and South America only release statistics periodically and "nobody releases stats there of crime at all for a very, very long time."

Thirdly, the statistics would be used for "political bashing".

Criticism

Kohler Barnard pointed out on Monday that if the statistics showed crime falling, the ruling party would be happy to flourish them. If the figures show crime rising, the police would "rightly come under criticism".

She mocks the idea that statistics can be used by criminals to plan crimes. "What evidence is there that criminals use annual crime statistics in the planning of crimes?" she asked.

"In particular, it is frankly inconceivable that rates of crime for the entire country, sorted into broad categories, could ever be used by criminals to their benefit.

"How many would-be murderers consult the SAPS Crime Statistics booklet to check up on the annual murder rate? The DA challenges the police commissioner to elaborate on this claim, and provide concrete examples of where this has been the case."

She added that if it turns out that a few categories can be used by criminals, this is not a good reason for failing to release the vast majority of data that could clearly never be of any use to criminals.

Interpol study

Kohler Barnard asked which Interpol study Cele is referring to, and how could a study that advocates periodic release of crime statistics possibly support his calls for a moratorium? In addition, there is a wealth of evidence to support the Democratic Alliance's view that real-time updates and monitoring of crime statistics would be of significant benefit to efforts to fight crime, she said.

In a snap survey of Latin American countries, the DA found that Colombia, Costa Rica and Uruguay have all recently released statistics for 2008, ands that some stats for the early part of 2009 are also already available.

"Is Mr Cele's behaviour that of a non-partisan police official, or a deployed cadre from the ANC's National Executive Committee?" Kohler Barnard asked.

"State institutions can only be held accountable when they act in a transparent manner. In the case of the police service, it is essential that crime statistics are released on a regular basis, so that the public and civil society groups can assess, on an ongoing basis, how its government is performing."