Police minister thrilled about decrease in violent crimes during lockdown

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Police Minister Bheki Cele on Sunday morning welcomed the "general decrease in serious and violent crimes", attributing this to, among other factors, the prohibition of the sale and movement of liquor since the nationwide coronavirus lockdown started on 27 March.

As the 2019-20 National Crime Statistics are yet to be officially released by the Minister of Police to Parliament later this year, the analysis done currently is a preliminary report that is yet to undergo the necessary verification and endorsements, ministry spokesperson Brigadier Mathapelo Peters said. 

"Analysing the crime and comparing the first week of the lockdown to the same period in 2019, Cele confirmed that murder cases had dropped from 326 to 94; rape cases dropped from 699 to 101; cases of assault with intention to inflict grievous bodily harm dropped from 2 673 to 456; and trio crimes dropped from 8 853 to 2 098.

"Car [and] truck hijacking, business robberies, and house robberies, which are collectively grouped as trio crimes, are arguably the most violent crimes where the perpetrators are commonly armed with illegal firearms. These are the type of crimes that are known to instil fear among our citizens," Peters said. 

High level of gender-based violence

In terms of gender-based violence (GBV), Cele confirmed that the number of complaints remained high and therefore concerning.

"Over 2 300 calls or complaints have been registered since the beginning of the lockdown on 27 March until 31 March and from these, 148 suspects were charged. The figure in relation to calls or complaints between January and 31 March stands at 15 924. Once all reports have been consolidated, the figures will be measured against the number of calls/complaints received through the GBV Command Centre in 2019, where the figure stands at 87 920."

With the initial declaration of the Covid-19 State of Disaster on 15 March 2020, Cele at that point flagged as a concern the possible increase in GBV and domestic violence cases, Peters said. 

"The minister at that time urged the management of the SAPS to reinforce the FCS Units (Family Violence, Child Protection and Sexual Offences) at police stations to ensure the SAPS readiness and capacity to respond to related complaints."

"Considering the improved rate of life sentences secured by the FCS Units in the past, one is optimistic that police will continue to work around the clock towards securing successful convictions and long term sentences of perpetrators of crimes against women and children. This should remain the practice even beyond the lockdown as GBV remains a scourge across the country," Cele said.

Fewer complaints against police

Cele has also welcomed the drop in the number of complaints against the police during the lockdown.

"The decrease in the number of complaints which were high over the first days of the lockdown, reflects stabilisation and confirms that people are now beginning to understand the lockdown and are complying with the Regulations, and that people are now cooperating with the members of the law enforcement entities," Cele said.

National lockdown: If you have a complaint against the police, these are the numbers to call

Peters added: "The past week was generally characterised by long queues at grocery stores and social grant pay points. This week, Cele anticipates improved adherence to the regulations, particularly in relation to restriction of movement of persons and traffic on the roads.

"The SAPS, SANDF, Metro Police and other law enforcement agencies will remain on high alert to ensure maximum adherence to the lockdown Regulations," Peters said.

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