DA apologises for wrong crime stats

Cape Town – The DA has apologised for releasing a statement incorrectly stating that there had been a drop of 70% over five years in reported incidence of crime in Khayelitsha in the Western Cape, when in fact the reduction had been 23.92% over the stated period.

The error was pointed out on September 13 to the DA by a local NGO, the Social Justice Coalition (SJC), which works in the township.

In a correction on the party's website, Dianne Kohler Barnard, the DA shadow minister of police, said the figure (70%) was based on the number of crimes reported at the Khayelitsha central police station between 2004 and 2009.

"However, in the intervening years two other police stations were opened to service the same geographical area, and incorporating figures from those stations, the reduction in crime is in fact 24%," she said in the statement.

Kohler Barnard told News24 a researcher had not been aware of the additional stations (Harare and Lingelethu West) that were opened in the period 2004/2005.

In the original August 29 DA statement, it is stated that 16 648 incidents of crime were reported in Khayelitsha in 2003/04 and that 5 046 were reported in 2008/09 resulting in a 70% drop.

"But this didn't happen by chance: The DA planned for it and made it happen," said Kohler Barnard at the time.

Inadequate correction

The correct figures indicate however that while 16 648 reports of crime were made in Khayelitsha in 2003/04, while there was still one police station in the area - 5 046 were reported at the Khayelitsha police station, 2 650 were reported at the Lingelethu West police station and a further 4 969 were reported at the Harare police station in 2008/2009.

The SJC has taken issue with the party's efforts to correct the claim, which was carried by many publications, calling it "inadequate and evasive".

According to the SJC, the DA's chief operations officer Ross Van Der Linde said the party would not issue a full statement on its website, but would instead add a correction to the original August statement in their archives. In addition, only the Cape Times would be sent a correction as Van Der Linde told the group it was the only newspaper to run the story.

"A brisk internet search shows that the story was covered by numerous local and national news sources...," said the SJC adding that the 70% reduction in crime had also been a topic of discussion on various radio stations and was distributed on various DA mailing lists.

The DA acknowledged that it had only sent a correction to the Cape Times but said it would send more if necessary.

"The DA confirms that if there were any other publications that ran the story we will ensure that they get a correction," the party told News24.


SJC spokesperson Gavin Silber said it was "disturbing" that the miscalculation went unnoticed by the DA-led city and the ministry of police, in an area considered "a locus of crime in the Western Cape".

At the time, the ministry of police condemned the DA for claiming the reduction as an achievement by the party saying it was "perplexed" and "disillusioned" as the reduction of crime is not a political matter in a September 2 statement headlined "Claim no easy victories, give credit where it is due".

“We reject their attempt to claim easy victories as misleading, opportunistic and setting up a narrow political propaganda that is devoid of integrity. Credit must be given where it is due. No political party can make this claim as any crime reduction and success remains the hard and smart work by police and the Khayelitsha community,” Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa said.

Asked if the ministry should have detected that something was amiss with the statistics announced by the DA, the minister's spokesperson Zweli Mnisi referred News24 to the ministry's September 2 statement (where he pointed out that no mention is made of the 70% reduction) saying the percentage was "immaterial" and that the ministry was concerned that the DA had claimed the" victory" at all.

Exposure to crime

Silbert told News24 many Khayelitsha residents had expressed disbelief at the DA claim. "A lot of people were quite shocked. People were wondering where this decrease had taken place."

He said it was important to have the right statistics to highlight the scope of the problem. "There is increased exposure to crime in the area and the criminal justice system is overburdened," he said.

Silber said people in the area report being attacked while walking to public transport spots or to communal toilets.

"Simple things that we take for granted can become life threatening," he said.

Silbert acknowledged that good work was being done in the fight against crime by institutions including the community-based Violence Prevention through Urban Upgrading (VPUU) in Khayelitsha.

"We need to talk about how to expand programmes like that," Silber said.

Crime statistics in the area for the period 2009/2010 show a reduction of 17.26% compared to 2003/2004. This means that there has been a slight increase of 6.66% in crimes reported in Khayelitsha in the last year.
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