Crime statistics

2008-07-02 00:00

There was little to cheer South Africans in general, and the people of this province in particular, in the release of the 2007-2008 crime statistics. In KwaZulu-Natal the reductions in some categories of crime (murder, down by 13,4%, and cash-in-transit robbery, 16,5%) were outweighed by increases in others, such as home robbery (+30,5%) business robbery (+92,9%) bank robbery (+100%) and carjacking (+9,1%).

The most disquieting feature of the statistics is the escalation of home invasions — that is, of housebreakings when the occupants are at home. These crimes erode a component of the foundation of human society, the belief that, while the outside world can be a dangerous place, one’s own home is one’s castle — a safe private domain and haven of security.

As presented to us, the KZN statistics are cause for a generalised but rather formless alarm. It would have been more useful had the figures been issued (as in the past) on a police precinct-by-precinct basis so that residents could have been made aware of the extent and character of the crime problem in their particular areas. That might have lightened the picture for areas whose community policing systems are working well to reduce crime, and might have spurred other areas to follow suit.

There are overwhelming and complex socio-economic reasons for criminal behaviour, including hunger, deprivation, unemployment and anger. Also, the police in many areas are ill-trained and corrupt, the courts are understaffed and malfunctioning, the prisons are dens of violence and criminality, and at every step between arrests of suspects and imprisonment there are delays and an array of easily exploitable loopholes. We can no longer afford to sit back helplessly in the face of these inadequacies. Every one of us has a contribution to make to the war against crime.

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