19 September 2012

South Africa: Crime Stats Must Reveal Arrest and Conviction Rates

Photo: Guy Oliver/IRIN
The drop in organised crime show that strategies police put in place over the past three years continued to yield results, the government says.

press release

The annual release of the national crime statistics tomorrow will most likely reveal incremental changes in crime statistics, but what we need is a massive and sustained drop in the overall level of criminal activity. The DA wants to see proof that the gains of the crime-free FIFA World Cup were maintained once the euphoria had died down.

The DA will be paying particular attention to the statistics with regard to rape, and particularly the rapes of women and children under the age of 18, which showed a massive increase last year.

The South African Police Service (SAPS) has proven that when they focus on specific areas they see results. We hope that persistent problem areas will receive appropriate focus.

Over the past year, SAPS members have worked in seriously unsettled circumstances. We saw the dismissal of disgraced former National Police Commissioner Bheki Cele, and the introduction of yet another civilian at the helm - someone who has yet to find her feet, and who is chiefly known for her bizarre utterances at the most inappropriate times.

It is also crucial that crime statistics must refer to both detection rates and conviction rates, as these are the only true determinants of the success of the criminal justice system.

We are well aware that fewer and fewer people are reporting crimes, reflecting an innate distrust in the SAPS and reinforcing the perceived inefficiency of SAPS members.

We must be given an indication of how many reported crimes lead to arrests, court appearances and convictions. This and this alone will give us a true reflection of the status of crime in South Africa.

According to available figures, as many as 51% of victims don't report serious crimes such as robbery and only 49% feel that the police are doing a good job. Will these figures be reflected as a decrease in crime? We can only guess.

Crimes must not be 'explained away' but dealt with effectively and efficiently. This is not too much to ask in exchange for the SAPS's R62.4 billion annual budget.

In order for the crime statistics to mean anything, they must be integrated with arrest and conviction statistics. Yet another year has come and gone and still the public does not have this information, which forces us to ask the question "How serious is the government about fighting crime?"

Dianne Kohler Barnard, DA Spokesperson on Police

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