Speech by Minister of Police Nathi Mthethwa on the occasion of the release of the Crime Statistics for the 2008/09 Fiscal year

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Fellow Ministers in the JCPS Cluster`1`
Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee
Provincial MECs present
National Commissioner BH Cele
Deputy National Commissioners
Divisional Commissioners
Provincial Commissioners
Members of the media both local and International
Ladies and gentlemen
Fellow South Africans,

The Government of the Republic remains firmly committed to the realisation of the goal of a better life for all. This includes the improvement of the quality of life of all the people of our country in a manner that will ensure enhanced levels of safety and security.

To a large measure, crime in our country has a uniquely random and violent character. A greater proportion of murders, rapes and other crimes take place among acquaintances, particularly in poor communities where living conditions do not allow for decent family and social life.

The high number of firearms among civilians, greed and conspicuous consumption, the psychology of patriarchal power relations and inconsiderate attitudes towards vulnerable members of society, especially children, are also some of the factors that continue to drive crimes like cash-in-transit heists, rapes, assaults and others. While aiming at reducing the number of firearms in circulation, the work we continue to do within the context of the Firearms Control Act has as its ultimate objective the reduction of firearm-related crimes.

In addition, cross border criminal networks are involved in a variety of
crimes including vehicle hijacking, drug and human trafficking.

All these factors speak to the continued relevance of a multipronged approach in the fight against crime, combining aspects of crime prevention, crime combating, the improvement of socio-economic conditions and strengthening of the spirit of ubuntu and human solidarity among citizens.

Today's briefing focuses on the release of the South African Police Service's crime statistics for the period 1st April 2008 to 31 March 2009. As you would all be aware, government releases these statistics once a year to provide the public with an indication of the crime situation in the country.
More importantly, crime statistics are used daily as a management tool to guide operational plans for the SAPS.

We need to reiterate that the release of statistics serves not only to quantify crime or to create a debate in our society. We believe that this is a call to action for Government, Business, NGOs and communities.

As you will observe in the various break-downs of crime trends over the past fiscal year, there are areas where we are making progress. At the same time there are other areas where we are still lagging behind.

Nevertheless, the ANC Government remains unmoved in its commitment to securing a better life for all and, the fight against crime is an integral part of this effort.

Contact crime currently accounts for 32.7% of all crimes. It is this form of crime with which violence is generally associated. We are therefore encouraged by the decrease in five of the seven contact crime categories during the period under review.

Conversely, there are indeed certain types of crime that have increased. The four areas as reflected in the crime statistics report with which we are particularly unhappy are; robbery with aggravated circumstances, sexual offenses, stock theft and commercial crime.
In assessing aggravated robberies there are three areas which account for the increase. These areas are business robberies, house robberies and hijackings.

Of the three areas mentioned, the highest increase was recorded in the area of business robberies. During the year under review the number of reported business robbery cases increased by 41.5% when compared to the previous year.

Over the last few months we have been engaging the business community to assess how we can better work together to reduce these robberies. Arising from these meetings a number of key areas have been identified.

The first relates to the type of businesses being targeted. It has become clear that formal and big business remain some what slightly affected.

The small business sector is most affected. It accounts for almost two thirds of all business robberies.
Unless this matter is addressed vigorously, it could perpetuate one of the apartheid fault-lines. We must urgently therefore, interact with all the relevant stakeholders, ourselves as the police, including the small and medium business sector itself, cluster departments, and communities, with the aim of reviewing the situation and developing short and long term measures.

We are aware that certain factors make small businesses particularly vulnerable to such robberies.
We need also to look at what technological measures can be introduced to assist in reducing the risks incurred by small business. Already joint SAPS/business initiatives are being piloted in Johannesburg Central and Tembisa and these focus specifically on robberies at small businesses. The lessons learnt from these two pilots will need to be rolled out to other areas of the country.

To address business robberies more generally we are working towards consolidating our partnership with business. This partnership seeks to jointly improve our efforts through, enhanced police and business crime prevention measures and improving alignment between the business sector and government. A crucial activity in this alignment process is greater information-sharing. We are confident that as we move forward with this partnership which focuses on a government-directed and led strategy supported by business, the negative trends we are witnessing currently will be reversed.
Cash-in-transit robberies declined by 2,3% during this period. This trend needs to be improved. To address this, over the last two months the department has focused considerable attention on the area of Cash-in-transit robberies. As recent events indicate, we are beginning to achieve some successes in terms of foiling some of the cash-in-transit activities. More work still needs to be done though.
We are engaging the business sector regarding the improvement of standards within the industry. Accordingly, we believe that the increase experienced since the end of the fiscal year is likely to start declining.

We are deeply concerned about the increase in house robberies which, during the last financial year increased by 27.3%. This is one of the issues that is going to receive our most serious attention.
It is one of the crimes that are the most intrusive and personalise the crime experience. A person's home is her/his last line of defence. Criminals will not be allowed to even think about going in there without facing dire consequences. We simply cannot tolerate a situation where people do not feel safe in their homes. House robberies affect communities from all walks of life.

Under the leadership of the National Commissioner, an audit has started to look at the totality of available resources and the deployment thereof. This includes human and material resources, as well as the timing of our deployments.

Furthermore, we need greater engagement with communities. Through CPFs and other structures, communities should contribute in the development of policing programmes in their areas.
We have recently piloted an initiative in Honeydew involving the SAPS and Private Security companies. This initiative is aimed at reducing the risks associated with house robberies. We are currently evaluating the lessons and successes. This effort will contribute to the process of further strengthening our approach to these crimes.

The final form of aggravated robbery that has increased significantly is that of hijacking involving both truck and car hijacking. Truck hijackings increased by 15.4% and car hijackings by 5%.

The trans-national crime phenomenon contributes significantly to vehicle hijackings. Most of these incidents occur in Gauteng because of its level of economic activity and its proximity to most land ports of entry. Many stolen vehicles are taken across into neighbouring countries. The police in South Africa work closely with our counterparts in the region to counter the activities of criminals.

As a result, there are at any point in time, many recovered cars and trucks that are kept in the police car pounds near the border ports of entry. Citizens should do more to claim these vehicles before they are crushed.

The passing of the Second Hand Goods Act and the finalisation of regulations will indeed contribute to curtailing the local market for illicit vehicles. In dealing with the local markets for stolen and hijacked vehicles we are also going to make greater use of technology to assist us in tracking and identifying such vehicles. Technology such as Automated Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) has already been piloted within SAPS.

Other interventions are on the pipeline. These include working with other regional police agencies to strengthen the implementation of regional protocols and agreements surrounding the movement of vehicles and increased capacity to embark on strategic joint operations such as Operation Salamanga.

With the National Commissioner having been elected as the head of SAPCCOR and the subsequent election of South Africa to chair the SAPCCOR Council of Ministers, we will be in a strong position to strengthen cooperation among regional police organisations and to ensure the prioritisation of cross border crimes.

Over the last year we have implemented a number of policing strategies to address house, business and vehicle robberies. Some of these strategies have yielded success. One such example is the introduction in some provinces of the War Room concept. Through this concept, suspects involved in violent organised crime have been tracked, linked to crimes and arrested.

Going forward, we are now looking to the newly formed Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation (DPCI) to consolidate these efforts. The DPCI has already achieved some successes. The recent arrest of a number of Cash-in transit robbers together with the recovery of firearms used in these crimes is an example. The Hawks also played an integral part in the successful drug seizure here and in the United Kingdom when they arrested a drug syndicate operating from Durban and seized drugs worth more than R500 million. This operation took place in the weekend of the 11 - 13 September 2009.

Sexual offences increased by 10.1%. While cognisant of the fact that at least in part, this increase can be attributed to changes in legislation, this is still not good. Under the new Sexual Offenses Act, a number of new categories of crime are now included as part of sexual offenses. On this matter will only be able to do perform proper comparisons at the end of next year.

Despite the overall increase in sexual offenses, we are heartened by the slight decline in crimes against women and children. Nevertheless, we are still not satisfied. Violence against women and children is still prevalent in our society. This phenomenon militates against our national effort to create a caring and humane society, underpinned by values of human solidarity, justice, peace and development.

The decision to close down special units that have focused on some of these crimes has been reversed. The SAPS is now auditing available capacity with a view to strengthening these units.
The increase of 2.7% in stock theft is a matter of serious concern. This form of crime negatively impacts on the lives of people living in rural communities.

Our history is characterized among others, by deliberate neglect of rural areas. The birth of democracy saw a shift in approach. Government has now placed the issue of rural development high on the agenda. This must find concrete expression in our policing strategy. Once again the SAPS has begun the process of locating this as a key focal area.

Another area that requires our attention is the increase in commercial crime. Commercial crime increased by 16%. Of further concern is that this increase is accompanied by an increase in the amount of money involved. Clearly this is an area that requires more focused attention by both business and government. We see the structural integration of crime intelligence and DPCI to be introduced soon as a key factor in addressing this work.

Areas where we have observed decreases include:

Murder and attempted murder. Both these forms of crime have been steadily declining over the last couple of years. We are pleased that they continue to decline. During this period murder declined by 3.4% and attempted murder by 4.3%.

Assault common and assault Grievous Bodily Harm (GBH) have also declined over the last year. Assault common declined by 4.3% and assault GBH by 4.7%. This is also encouraging.

The dramatic decline in bank robberies is welcome. During the last financial year the number of bank robberies declined by a 29.2%. Some of the key factors contributing to this level of success include: the partnership developed between business and government and measures introduced by the banks themselves.

What is equally encouraging is that ATM attacks (which are not listed as a specific category in our crime statistics) also declined by 10%. The picture between January and September of this year would seem to indicate that this 10% decline, has now risen to a 75% decrease. Once again this decrease can be attributed to improved police responses and approaches as well as enhanced co-operation with the banking sector.

One of the largest categories of aggravated robberies is that of street robberies. The decline in both street robberies and common robberies is undoubtedly a positive trend. During this period street robberies declined by 7.4% and common robberies by 8.9%. Despite this decline, the number of street robberies still remains unacceptably high and we need to ensure that we do not become complacent. We must continue to give attention to this form of crime.
There are various key areas which we believe will further contribute to reducing crime levels in the country.

Some of these measures include:
A more concerted focus on the role that intelligence can play in supporting our approach to crime. We have recognised that intelligence should act as a nerve centre and has a crucial role to play in all aspects of policing. We are currently revitalizing our intelligence component. Part of this revitalisation includes ensuring the integration of intelligence into all aspects of policing. This will be anchored through the \DPCI.

We have been working with the Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Development on amendments to Section 49 of the Criminal Procedure Act. We are at a stage of finalising this process. These amendments should go before Parliament during the 4th session of this year. These changes are being made in order to strengthen the hand of the police in dealing with violent criminals. We are generally humbled by the support shown by the majority of the members of the public in this regard. It is important to reiterate that trigger happy members must not think that this is a license to kill. This is a measure aimed specifically at dealing with serious violent crime and dangerous criminals. Alongside these changes, we have strengthened the Independent Complaints Directorate (ICD). We see this strengthening of the ICD as an important measure to ensure that changes to Section 49 are not abused. Legislation to this effect will be introduced in due course.

The government has focused attention on the revamping of the Criminal Justice System. The basis for this is to ensure a far better integration of the different departmental role players in the Criminal Justice environment. In this regard we have started to increase the number of detectives and focus on intensified and improved training. The work that has been done over the last year provides a strong base upon to build. We are also hoping that the Criminal Law (Forensic Procedures) Amendment Bill will be finalised during the 4th session of parliament this year.

Police alone cannot win the fight against crime. We therefore need to deepen our partnership with communities. In this regard, the Ministry has established a dedicated unit to focus on deepening the interaction with communities, civil society, business, faith-based organisations and the different spheres of government.

Management and control of some of our borders is a major challenge. Cabinet has recently agreed that, at least until 2010, the SANDF will be re-engaged in securing our borderlines. The Justice Crime Prevention and Security Cluster has also been tasked by Cabinet to address the matter of border control. The cluster is developing a comprehensive approach and plan to deal with this area.

The number of police officers who lose their lives in the line of duty is a matter of deep concern. We are profoundly distressed by this situation. On behalf of the department our sincere condolences go out to the families and loved ones of those officers who gave their lives so bravely. We will persist in addressing the dangers that face the women and men in blue.

Government is unshakeable in its resolve to fight crime. In areas where there have been positive in-roads, we will continue to work hard and smart to entrench these successes. Accordingly, in areas where there have been some increases in crime, we shall work together to find solutions.

I thank you.