Working towards creating a country where residents feel safe in their homes, businesses, at school, while travelling or while shopping remains a fundamental human right for all citizens. Among Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, security or the perception of being safe is one of the most basic human development needs behind what motivates people. Additionally, personal safety is a prerequisite in the National Development Plan (NDP) for the country to develop and ensure enhanced productivity.
On Friday, South Africans waited with bated breath for the annual release of the criminal statistics for the period between April 2015 and March 2016.
Minister of Police, Nkosinathi Nhleko, along with his delegation, delivered what can only be described as the worst news coming from the police service since the Police Commissioner, Riah Phiyega was suspended pending an inquiry into her fitness to hold office. The stats covered four broad categories of crime: contact crime, contact-related crime, property-related crime and other serious crime. On the positive side, crime in three of the four categories decreased during the current financial year.
The fight against crime is not only a police issue, it an issue that must be taken up by communities. But is the increase in contact crime an indication of the degeneration of society? Are the different underlying social fabrics that exist in various communities under threat of breaking down? These are difficult questions requiring complexed answers. Due to the nature of being socially related (contact crime), a concerted effort is needed by inter-related stakeholders along with an integrated justice system to ensure citizens feel safe.
In a resounding blow to the South African psyche, General Khomotso Phahlane, Acting Police Commissioner admitted that although sexual offences have been sharply decreasing since 2013/14 (current decrease of 3.2% when compared to previous year); this may be due to a lack of reporting from victims. But with the consistent year-on-year decline of reporting sexual offences, what remedial action have the police embarked on to deal with the identified elements contributing to the decline?
General Phahlane, explained that the police have mounted a “back to basics” approach, an element of response aimed at doing the right things right. The current strategic and operational approach is informed by the objectives of NDP:
Although policing remains a thankless job with unrelenting criticism from “armchair” critics, Phahlane pledged to “paint the town blue” suggesting that more police will be deployed because communities must know that police are out and about. To this end, police have established a collaborative and consultative approach to policing with all stakeholders. They have already initiated consultation processes with various farming communities and businesses.
Police have identified three transversal issues required to improve the crime-fighting service they provide:
Police must act with integrity, discipline and enforce a culture of professionalism within the service.
Implement a proactive and constructive strategy to demilitarise the police service
The uncompromising compliance with the fundamental principles of policing, doing the right things right while establishing a culture of performance management and accountability.
“Contact crime requires effort far broader than just police service itself. We need to begin to engage the overall social outlook of South African society to deal with patterns of behavior,” said Minister Nhleko.
On the positive side, the Minister announced that the crime statistics will henceforth be released on a quarterly basis to ensure statistics aren’t old by release date and that citizens are duly updated about progress made by police in the fight against crime.
I think we can all agree that policing is an essential but very complexed science. It requires numerous moving pieces to gel together to make progress a reality. To this end, I salute the hundreds of men and women who fearlessly protect the vulnerable everyday.
Ironically, the crime statistics were released on the eve of a Police Memorial held at the Union Buildings on Sunday for 72 police officers who were killed in the past year; 40 officers lost their lives while on duty.
Notable facts from the criminal statistics:
Murder rate up by 4.9%, most cases indoors, domestic violence and alcohol linked (social contact crime)
Reported serious crime decreased by 1.4% from 2014/15 to 2015/16. This depicts a 9% decrease over a 10 year period.
Carjacking is up by 14.3%
About 5000 cases of arson were reported across the country with protests (Vuwani, FeesMustFall and RhodesMustFall) as major contributing factors.
Peaceful protests are on the decrease with more and more protests becoming extremely rowdy.
South Africans fear house robbery the most, up by 2.7%
Driving under the influence is up by 11.1%
1.7 million crimes were reported by communities during 2015/16 financial year
Crimes detected as a result of police action contributes 17% to crime