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Monday, 20 October 2008

Violent crime still on the rise

South Africa's "skyrocketing" violent crime rate and lack of vital policing skills is forcing police management to rethink their crime-fighting and training strategies.
This was revealed at the opening of a three-day SAPS training convention in Centurion on Tuesday.

Assistant Commissioner Chris de Kok, the SAPS's crime statistician, said violent crimes, especially house robberies, hijackings and business robberies had continued to "skyrocket" since the close of 2008's financial year in March.

De Kok emphasised that the understanding of statistics was vital if police were to combat crime.
While he mentioned 2007's statistics for crimes such as house and business robberies, which increased by 13,5 percent and 47 percent respectively, from the 2006/7 financial year to the 2007/8 financial year, and hijacking figures, which rose by 14 percent during the same period, De Kok was reluctant to release the figures for the first six months of the 2008/9 financial year.

"All I can say is that these figures are on the increase.

"What we now need to do is to find out why these crimes are increasing," said De Kok.
He admitted that while the police were on track when it came to reducing crime, there were still a number of gaps which needed to be plugged.

"One of the first things that we need to do is realise that not all crimes are the same.

"In other words, we need to realise that crimes such as murder occur for a variety of reasons - be they because of drunken arguments or the motive to rob," De Kok said.

He added: "Once we understand the dynamics of crime we will be on our way to forming a successful crime-fighting strategy.

"By addressing the smaller components of crime we get an understanding of what causes crime and know how we need to train our members so that they can deal with crime properly." He added that policing priorities were often wrong because crime statistics were misunderstood. De Kok said by understanding statistics one could determine what training was needed.

Voicing his concern over the low conviction rate of criminals, especially sexual offenders, state Advocate Brandon Lorenzo said there was serious cause for concern, especially when it came to the taking of statements, interviews and the compilation of medical reports.

"It is absolutely unacceptable that vital details such as names, dates and times are left out of statements; and that documents such as medical reports are left incomplete.

"It is these human errors and lack of important details which lead to a break in the chain of evidence and ultimately cause the case to be lost," he said.

He cited an example of 72 acquittals at the Germiston magistrate's court recently because crime scene kits had been left unattended and not secured.

Commissioner Gary Kruser, head of the SAPS training division, said such conventions were vital as they would help police in their endeavours to overcome challenges in policing in South Africa.

  • This article was originally published on page 7 of Pretoria News on October 16, 2008

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