Murder climbing back to 2006 levels

Police Minister Nathi Nhleko (Tammy Petersen, News24)
Police Minister Nathi Nhleko (Tammy Petersen, News24)

Cape Town - The number of reported murders has steadily increased, but police believe they are making a dent in crime in the long run.

The 2015/16 crime statistics presented in Parliament on Friday showed a 4.9% increase in murder when compared to the previous financial year.

This means that around 51 people were murdered every day in South Africa, up from 49 in 2014/15.

The murder rate increased by 20% in the last five years, creeping back to a high last seen in 2006.

In 2006/07, there were 19 106 reported murder cases. This dipped to 15 554 around five years later.

In the last financial year, reported murders stood at 18 673 cases.

‘Stubborn’ contact crime

Crime in South Africa had broadly decreased, Police Minister Nkosinathi Nhleko told Parliament.

A large proportion of murders seemed to result from arguments or misunderstandings, he told reporters. Taxi and gang violence, and conflict among illegal miners, were other causative factors.

He told Parliament that contact crime remained “quite stubborn”. He believed efforts needed to be made beyond the police service to address social patterns behind the crime.

Acting police commissioner Lieutenant-General Khomotso Phahlane seemed to take a different approach.

“What is it social workers are going to do to bring down contact crime? Crimes are being committed by people wielding illegal firearms,” he told Parliament’s portfolio committee on police.

“As the SAPS, we do our best to bring these crime levels down to ensure the same social workers are able to do their work in our communities.”

He said policing remained a thankless job, but they would continue to serve the country.

Seven of the top 10 “murder” police stations were in the Western Cape.

Sex crimes

There had been a 3.2% decrease in sexual offences, which ranged from “sex work” to “rape”. Seven of the nine provinces reflected this decrease. There had been a steady decrease over the last three years.

The Institute for Security Studies (ISS) said this decrease was deeply concerning because it suggested fewer people were reporting these crimes.

It said civil society continued to call for rape to be separated from the sexual assault category for a clearer picture.

Assault with intent to do bodily harm increased, as did common assault and robbery with aggravating circumstances.

However, the increase in aggravated robbery had slowed dramatically in the last three years.

Carjacking shot up by 14.3% when compared to the last financial year. Phahlane said modern security features, which made it harder to steal parked cars, were partly to blame for an increase in carjackings and a decrease in vehicle theft.

Residential robbery increased by 2.7%. Gauteng had the highest number of reported residential robberies, but saw a decrease in the last year.

Robberies at non-residential premises increased by 2.8%, as did cash-in-transit robberies (up 15.1%).

There was a small decrease in the number of crimes detected as a result of police action.

Increasingly becoming a feature of daily life was violent protests, with a sharp increase in the last year.

“More and more protests are becoming rowdy, whereas those protests that are peaceful are on the decrease,” said crime research and statistics head Major-General Norman Sekhukhune.

Reported cases of violent unrest increased to 3542, compared to 2289 in the previous financial year.

Phahlane said they had brought the police's leadership crisis under control. This was after a tumultuous time when some provincial commissioners got into trouble for supporting suspended police commissioner Riah Phiyega, among other issues.

More resources had been taken to police stations, more mobile units were being used, and intelligence services had been beefed up.

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