Significant reduction in crime since lockdown

Sunday, April 5, 2020

Police Minister Bheki Cele has welcomed the dramatic reduction in serious and violent crimes during the lockdown to curb the COVID-19 pandemic. 

In a statement issued on Sunday, Cele said indications were this was due to, among others, the prohibition of the sale and movement of liquor since the nationwide lockdown 10 days ago.

The Ministry in the statement said the analysis is based on a preliminary report that is yet to undergo the necessary verification and endorsements.

Analysing the crime and comparing the first week of the lockdown to the same period in 2019, Cele said murder cases had dropped from 326 to 94, while 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,” he said. 

Car/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 amongst citizens. 

In relation to gender-based violence, Minister Cele confirmed that the number of complaints remained high and this was a concern. 

“Over 2 300 calls/complaints have been registered since the beginning of the lockdown on 27 March 2020 until 31 March 2020 and from these, 148 suspects were charged,” said Cele. 

The figure in relation to calls/complaints between January 2020 and 31 March 2020 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.

When COVID-19 was declared a national state of disaster on 15 March 2020, Cele at that point flagged the possible increase in GBV and Domestic Violence cases as a concern. The Minister at the time urged the management of the SAPS to reinforce the Family Violence, Child Protection and Sexual Offences (FCS) Units at police stations to ensure their 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," said the Minister.

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," said Cele.

The Ministry said the past week was generally characterised by long queues at grocery stores and social grant paypoints. 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. -