Why the crime stats are wrong

2017-10-29 05:49
Fikile Mbalula. (Jan Gerber, News24)

Fikile Mbalula. (Jan Gerber, News24)

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The crime statistics released this week do not paint an accurate picture of the country’s crime trends as South Africans lose faith in the police and the justice system.

Gareth Newham, head of the Institute of Security Studies’ Justice and Violence Prevention Programme, also said the apparent reduction in contact crime – down by 2.4% – did not suggest any police improvement.

Contact crimes, a category defined by the South African Police Service (SAPS), includes: murder and attempted murder; sexual offences, including rape; assault and assault to do grievous bodily harm; and robbery with aggravating circumstances, such as hijacking.

“What you see in stats suggesting the reduction of crime is not exactly that, but the reduction in the number of cases reported, because people have lost faith in the police. Decline in public trust in the police translates into decline in number of criminal cases reported,” Newham said.

“I don’t understand why politicians would say police were doing a good job looking at the statistics.”

Newham said that using statistics to gauge police’s performance was only worsening the service.

“Saying that would only encourage them to continue mistreating rape victims. They promote the mistreatment of rape victims so that stats could give a picture saying the crime has declined,” he said.

According to the crime statistics, the number of reported rape cases has declined by 4% between 2015/16 and 2016/17. But the rate of reported rape has decreased by 26% since the 2009/2010 crime statistics, according to data released by SAPS.

“If police were to start treating crime victims, including rape victims, with dignity and sensitivity when they come to report the crime then rape cases would increase because everyone would come report with good faith.”

Newham said government should instead provide police officers with better training, and fix the leadership crisis in the police’s upper ranks – not rely heavily on statistics.

“At the moment sexual offences statistics are unreliable. Crime stats can only give a certain proportion of crime because very few incidents of some categories like assault and sexual offences are reported,” he said.

Meanwhile, concerns have been raised about why kidnapping has been removed as a crime category from the statistics.

Anti-crime activist Yusuf Abramjee believes kidnapping could be the next big thing for the country’s organised criminals. He said several businessmen have already been kidnapped for ransom, citing the case of Pretoria businessman Omar Carrim who has been missing for more than three months.

Carrim’s family would not speak to City Press because there have been demands for ransom in return for his release.

Abramjee said kidnapping was real but people were too scared to report the crime especially in cases where ransom demands were made.

“Latest statistics failed to have kidnapping statistics and this is a worry,” he said.

Newham agreed, saying that while motives for kidnapping varied – and included cases where a divorced father or mother would be accused of the crime after failing to return the child – the crime was real.

“It is also a worry because some kidnapping cases are fake or staged in lucid deals between two people or with a syndicate group. In other cases, families are told not to inform the police at all which is the reason why most cases don’t reach the public domain,” he said.

Read more on:    crime

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