15 January 2013

South Africa: DA Questions Results of Saps Festive Season Campaign

press release

The DA is forced to question the 'festive season' crime statistics reported by the South African Police Service today. The number of reported arrests have declined massively in comparison to those reported after the previous year's festive season policing campaign. Is this the result of higher levels of visible policing or a less efficient police service? And why have the SAPS seemingly gone out of their way to make this an impossible question to answer?

In October last year, the SAPS launched the Operation Duty Calls National Festive Season Crime-Fighting campaign. This operation included higher levels of police visibility in cities and townships. It was supposed to focus on reducing aggravated robberies, cash-in-transit heists, ATM bombings, alcohol and drug-related crime, as well as social crime prevention.

Today Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa and National Police Commissioner Riah Phiyega released the results of this operation and lauded the apparent successes of the SAPS.

However, the results of the operation must be questioned when compared with those of last year's festive season. According to the statement issued by the Minister last year, a total of 542 241 suspects were arrested during the 2011/2012 festive season. This most recent campaign saw the arrest of just over 67 000 suspects for crimes ranging from shoplifting to murder. This is an extraordinary and inexplicable drop.

The most questionable statistics, however, are the number of individuals arrested for drug-related crimes and driving under the influence. Drug-related crimes dropped from 34 187 in 2011/2012 to 8 800 in 2012/2013 and driving under the influence dropped from 11 946 to 2 751. Such a steep drop seems highly unlikely, especially considering the fact that festive season road fatalities have not shown a similar drop over the past year.

Perhaps this is why the Minister didn't provide a comparison to last year's figures during his media briefing today. By failing to issue comparative statistics, he has attempted to hide the fact that the SAPS were potentially not on top form. Indeed, one has to ask exactly how many crimes were reported in relation to the arrest rate announced today, and why this figure wasn't provided.

The Minister must clarify this unfathomable decline in the number of arrests in key crime categories during the past festive season. I will be submitting parliamentary questions to determine the following:

The exact number of arrests made during the 2011/2012 and 2012/2013 festive seasons for each crime category;

The number of crimes reported during this period in 2011/2012 and 2012/2013;

The number of visible policing operations in 2011/2012 and 2012/2013; and

Whether the statistics were collated differently this year.

The DA would like to believe that this decline in arrests is due to a drop in crime through increased visible policing, but we simply cannot. If this massive drop is indeed due to increased visible policing operations, it proves how successful the SAPS could be in cutting crime all year round, and begs the question why such an effective campaign is not being implemented on a sustained basis.

Unfortunately all the Minister succeeded in doing today is to leave us asking the question: What is he trying to hide?

Dianne Kohler Barnard, DA Spokesperson on Police

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