Friday, 14 August 2020

Pretoria: South Africa was a much safer place to live in during the first quarter of 2020/2021, as crime statistics show major decreases in all crime categories when compared to the same period last year.

Presenting the crime statistics from 1 April 2020 to 30 June 2020, Police Minister, General Bheki Cele, has attributed the decrease in criminal activities to the lockdown regulations.

“… The decreased crime levels were impacted largely by the fact that South Africans heeded the call to stay at home, and it goes without saying that the conditions for crime to thrive were not [the usual].

“There were also more boots on the ground to ensure high police visibility and mass adherence to the Disaster Management Act,” the Minister said on Friday.

These statistics show the crime levels during the nationwide lockdown implemented by government to contain the spread of COVID-19. South Africa is currently on level 3 lockdown.

“It is equally important to acknowledge that the unavailability of alcohol also had a role to play. This is evident in the decreased numbers of cases of contact crimes, which plummeted by 37.4%.

“This means there were 53 891 less cases of murder, attempted murder, assault with intent to cause Grievous Bodily Harm (GBH), common robbery and common assault reported, compared to the same reporting period,” the Minister said.

Cele said the drop in crime cases is also demonstrated by a 29.4% decline in contact-related crimes made up of arson and malicious damage to property.

“During this time, South Africans were also safer in their homes. Burglaries at residential premises dropped by over 30%, while on the other hand, burglary at non-residential premises increased by 9.1%.

“Worryingly, there has been an increased number of attacks on schools and liquor outlets during this time,” the Minister said.

A total of 2 692 burglaries were reported at educational premises and 1 246 liquor outlets were targeted. Police have arrested 1 186 people for these crimes.

Drop in sex offences

There has also been a big drop of 39.7% in the number of sexual offences such as sexual assault. A 40.4% decrease in the number of rape cases was reported during the three months, the Minister said.

All top 30 stations that are reporting high levels of assault with intent to cause GBH too recorded drops in numbers.

“Common assault numbers declined from April and May, while the country was under level 4 and 5 but the gap started to close on the 1st of June, when the country was eased into level 3 of the lockdown,” the Minister said.

To date, 298 252 people have been arrested and charged with contraventions of the Disaster Management Act.

A total of 181 579 people were released on warning to appear before a court.

The Minister said 28 337 of those arrested were found guilty of violations ranging from liquor possession, gathering, unauthorised transportation and business, and cross-border related offences.

“Operational interventions continued throughout lockdown and have resulted in the confiscation of millions of Rands worth of contraband. They also removed illegal firearms off our streets and recovered stolen property, including stock.

“These operations played a huge role in clamping down on illegal transportation and distribution of banned substances such as alcohol and cigarettes. They also got in the way of the organised crime trying to take advantage of the new way of life,” the Minister said.

Police officers implicated in criminal activities

A total of 163 officers were arrested from the start of the lockdown for violating the lockdown regulations.

“We are also hopeful that the Independent Police Investigative Directorate will bring [closure] in its investigations into allegations of police brutality, including allegations of death at the hands of the South African Police Service (SAPS) and armed forces.

“Just this week, 16 SAPS officers, who disgraced the police uniform, stood before a Magistrate in Gauteng,” the Minister said.

A three-year investigation by the Hawks Serious Corruption Investigation and Crime Intelligence saw warrant officers, sergeants and constables arrested for allegedly stealing millions of rands worth of drugs confiscated from drug mules and other corruption related offences at the OR Tambo International Airport.

In Tshwane, the same Hawks team arrested 11 Tshwane Metro Police Department (TMPD) officers for alleged corruption by receiving bribes from motorists.

SA records drop in gender-based violence

South Africa’s initial COVID-19 lockdown saw gender-based violence and sexual crimes dramatically decrease during levels 5 and 4.

Sexual offences crimes decreased between April and June, Police Minister Bheki Cele said on Friday. Cele said between April and June, sexual offenses decreased by 39.7%. These related to crimes such as rape and sexual assault.

A breakdown of the category saw reported rape cases drop by a significant 40% while sexual assault recorded a 35.9% decrease.

Attempted sexual offences and contact sexual offences decreased by 40.3% and 36.2%, respectively.

A breakdown of the statistics reveals that most rapes happened at places of residence of the perpetrator, followed by public areas, public transport and prisons.

“While we can’t claim easy victories, we acknowledge that the circumstances that led to the declining numbers were distorted. But even if distorted, it was a better time in South Africa because more lives were saved,” said Cele.

The quarterly statistics revealed a reduction in crimes committed against women and children during level 4 and 5 of the lockdown.

“However, the low numbers of domestic abuse and sexual offences reported cases could have been due to some women not being able to escape their abusers and could not report crimes committed against them,” said the Minister at a briefing held at the Government Communication and Information System (GCIS) head office.

Cele said police would continue to monitor the reporting of such cases and verify whether the reduction was as a result of non-reporting due to the lockdown.

This, he said, will be done by comparing the dates of reporting with the dates of which the crime was committed.

The Minister emphasised that it was equally important to acknowledge that the unavailability of alcohol also had a role to play.

“This is evident in the decreased numbers of cases of contact crimes which plummeted by 37.4%,” he said, adding that the first quarter of the 2020/2021 period was a “much safer time to live in, in the country.”

Meanwhile, Cele revealed that police would soon made make a breakthrough in relation to the murders of five women in Mthwalume, in KwaZulu-Natal.

Police in the province, he said, have taken two people in for questioning.

“We are questioning them and we are confident that at least one of them will give us proper answers. We will be going there tomorrow to enhance the forces on the ground so that we stop this thing. It’s a thing that should be stopped… five is already a big number,” he said.

Since April, police have found bodies of women in a sugar plantation in the area. The latest two bodies were found this week.