Crime: SA scared, negative and dissatisfied with the system

2015-04-14 14:43

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The disjointed management of the criminal justice system by the police, courts and correctional services has led to sharp increases in the levels of dissatisfaction among victims of crime in South Africa, according to Statistician-General Pali Lehohla.

Data collected from 30 000 households and people, who fell victim to house robbery, housebreaking and burglary and assault, showed that the entire criminal justice system had to urgently change the manner in which it managed cases or risk lowering satisfaction levels among victims of crime, said Lehohla, who was addressing the media in Pretoria today on the release of Statistics South Africa’s Victims of Crime survey.

“Using primarily data from the Victims of Crime survey 2013-2014, the study found that the majority of households in the country rated courts at 64.3% and police 59.2% positively but 50.2% of households held a negative perception about correctional services,” said Lehohla.

A perception is also growing among South Africans that courts were too “lenient” on offenders. This had tarnished the image of how courts manage their cases.

“More than three quarters of households held the position that many people who were guilty were not sent to prison,” said Lehohla.

Lehohla said the data would be used to advise police, courts and correctional services on policy changes they needed to make to counter the downward spiral in levels of satisfaction about the country’s criminal justice system.

The data showed that the satisfaction levels on police work from those who were victims of housebreaking or burglary decreased from 51% in 2011 to 47.4% in the 2013-2014 financial year, while satisfaction levels about courts services fell from 31.9% in 2011 to 23.3% in the 2013-2014 financial year.

The declining trend also continued when assessing the work of magistrates and judges. Satisfaction levels tumbled from 7.2% in 2011 to 2.6% in the 2013-2014 financial year.

Perceptions that police were lazy, did not respond on time and were corrupt also tended to influence growing negative perception against police while decreasing crime trends, police visibility and prompt police response evoked satisfaction for those polled.

Among those who were satisfied with the police about 34.4% felt that violent crime was on the increase while 51.4% of those who said they were not satisfied with police work perceived violent crimes to have increased.

When it comes to reporting cases to the police, levels of satisfaction don’t make a difference: only 52.6% of people who were satisfied with police said they reported their cases. This is compared with 54.4% of those who were not satisfied with the police who reported crimes to police.

Those polled said although the government had policies to ensure a better life for all, the fear of crime offset the progress that had been made in improving the lives of everyone in the country.

The data also showed that people in the Western Cape feared crime the most.

The highest number of people who feared going to parks and open spaces because of crime, 40.8%, reside in the Western Cape – where the highest number of parents, 44.8%, feared allowing their children to play in open spaces alone.

Another 36.9% of Western Cape residents said they feared allowing their children to walk to school and 21.2% said they dreaded walking to the shops.

About 24.2% of Western Cape residents said they avoided using public transport because of their fear of crime compared with only 4.2% who said the same in the Eastern Cape, 14.9% in Mpumalanga, 14.3% in KwaZulu-Natal and 13.6% in Gauteng.

More people in the Eastern Cape – 7.2% – said they carried weapons to protect their homes, followed by 6.2% in North West, 5.8% in Gauteng, and 5.4% in Mpumalanga and Western Cape.

To deter intruders or potential perpetrators of crime about 65% of residents in Gauteng had higher fencing, electric gates and other barriers followed by the Western Cape, with about 63% of households, the survey found.

About 60.3% of female-headed households perceived housebreaking or burglary as the most commonly feared crime, followed by home robbery at 50.8%.

The survey also found that 61% of Asian/Indian households feared housebreaking or burglary the most, while 59.9% of black Africans feared this particular crime compared with 58.6% of white households.

Lehohla said they would meet with authorities in the police, courts and correctional services sector to drive home the message that the data collected could be used to create better management systems.

“Police, courts and correctional services are certainly disjointed and the public is really unhappy to a certain extent because they don’t see the dispensing of justice in the manner they would like it to be done. The criminal justice system must itself work as a single and unified system because the public does not see them that way,” said Lehohla.

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