Although most reported crimes are down, the increase in violent crimes, which include sexual offences, are a great concern, says Fouche Burgers, national project manager at Business Leadership SA (BLSA).
“It is evident that violence and disregard for human life are woven into our social fabric,” Burgers said following the release of South Africa’s crime statistics for the 12 months to end-March 2020.
The reported statistics show that the overall crime levels were down when compared with the previous year. This downward trend is evident both for crimes reported by the public and crimes detected through police action. Across all crime categories, only contact crimes were up.
“The increase in almost all contact crimes – sexual offences, carjacking and robbery at non-residential premises – is worrying as it directly affects the public’s perception of safety and security,” Burgers says. “As long as we have high levels of violent crime and crimes against people, which include burglaries at residential premises, any decrease in other crimes will not be reflective of how ordinary citizens feel about crime and the effectiveness of the police. This might encourage people with scarce skills to emigrate, thus negatively affecting the efficiency of our work force.”
He says that as long as we have high levels of crime, especially violent crimes, it will be very difficult to acquire foreign investments.
“It should be every South African’s mission to reduce the violence epidemic,” Burgers says. “The solution to these problems is beyond the criminal justice system. We need to understand and address the root causes of these crimes. In South Africa, these are mostly poverty, inequality, morality and addiction.
To address these drivers, we should focus more on education, health, housing and addiction support.”
Tebele Luthuli, managing director of Business Against Crime SA (BACSA), a division of BLSA, says the slight uptick in commercial crimes is particularly worrying for the business sector. Commercial crimes, which include fraud, scams and corruption, increased by 0.1% to 83,869 crimes from 82,823 in the previous year.
“With such high levels of fraud and corruption being reported recently in relation to Covid-19 tenders, it’s important that the focus should not only be on government complicity in corruption but also on the private sector,” Luthuli says. “As uncompromising as BACSA is against government corruption, we are also uncompromising when it involves businesses. A zero-tolerance policy is the only way forward in a country with such high levels of corruption.”
Luthuli welcomes President Cyril Ramaphosa’s proclamation authorising the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) to investigate any unlawful or improper conduct in the procurement of goods and services during the national state of disaster. However, she says little is to be gained if there are no swift, visible consequences to the opportunism and fraud related to Covid-19 contracts.
“It is particularly abhorrent that people are so ready and willing to commit fraud in relation to personal protection equipment and other contracts that have the purpose of assisting us in our fight against the pandemic,” Luthuli says. “We need people to be charged and prosecuted as quickly as possible.”
Burgers notes the decrease in property related crimes (burglary at non-residential premises, burglary at residential premises, vehicle thefts) and cash-in-transit robberies. “Of interest is that the prevention of these crimes is where the private security industry is typically deployed. BACSA believes that the private security industry’s involvement in the Eyes and Ears Initiative, an anti-crime programme, does play a role in reducing such crimes.”
The Eyes and Ears Initiative is an official joint crime-fighting initiative between the South African Police Service, BACSA and the private security industry (PSI) whereby the PSI formally cooperates with the police by relaying information directly to the police.
“This initiative shows that the private sector and the SAPS can work together and should work together to fight crime effectively,” Burgers says.