Business robberies in South Africa increased by 7.5% in the 2011/12 financial year to a ratio of 31.5, from 29.3 in the previous year, with mostly small to medium-sized businesses targeted, the latest crime statistics have revealed.
The South African Police Service (SAPS) survey results were released on Thursday and reported on all crime in South Africa during the period running from April 1, 2011, to the end of March. All percentage increases and decreases were calculated on the basis of ratios per 100 000 of the population.
Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa said that operational analysis at police station level confirmed that police visibility at the right times, the right places and employing the right tactics, could decrease 'Trio Crimes' (the category of contact crimes under which business robberies fall) significantly, especially business robberies.
“The seriousness with which government views crimes against small business, requires a comprehensive and holistic strategy to ensure that the phenomenon is addressed in all its dimensions. We need to implement a shared vision, a collective and integrated approach, business involvement and participation and improved crime-prevention,” the Minister urged.
He said the SAPS had finalised a strategy to combat and reduce robberies at small business and would, through the Civilian Secretariat of Police, engage relevant parties to ensure the implementation of the strategy within the next few weeks.
Senior researcher at the Institute for Security Studies’ (ISS’) crime and justice programme Johan Burger told Engineering News Online that the strategy, officially dubbed the ‘Small Business Crime Combatting Strategy’, was a multidimensional approach to combating business robberies, of which one third was in the informal sector.
“It would involve, for instance, the police; the departments of Trade and Industry; Home Affairs and Justice and Business Against Crime SA (Bacsa),” he said.
Meanwhile, contact crimes, such as murder, attempted murder and sexual assault, declined by 3.5% in the financial year under review. In 2010/11, contact crimes declined by 6.9%.
The number of murders fell to 15 609 in the year under review, from 15 940 in the previous year.
“We are encouraged to see the murder ratio a further decrease, in a long line of decreases, which still contributes to the systematic and almost constant decrease in murders since the dawn of democracy; despite South Africa’s 30% population growth,” Mthethwa stated.
Crimes such as carjacking declined by 11.9% in the 2011/12 year, while house robberies fell by 1.9% during the period.
Organised crime also declined, with cash-in-transit robberiesfalling by 37.5% and bank robbery decreasing by 10.3%.
The Minister said ATM bombings in the period decreased by 34.6%, from 399 cases to 261 cases.
Overall, the serious crime ration declined by 1.9% in 2011/12 to 3 609, from 3 680 in 2010/11. Looking at the past eight years, serious crime reduced by 31.8%.
Mthethwa noted that the crime statistics indicated a ‘mixed bag’ with marginal downward trends in some of the crime categories.
“Where government succeeds, we will continue to draw from the lessons and replicate in other areas. Where government is not pleased, we will recommit ourselves to creating a safer South Africa.
“We are not there yet, but with the participation of all sectors of society, we are turning the tide against crime. We must win the battle against crime, in whatever form it manifests itself,” he said.
Bacsa applauded the overall improvement in the national crime statistics.
“The decline in vehicle theft by 25.1% and hijackings by 11.9% is an indication of the successes of proactive policing in the country over recent years combined with the support of the business sector in implementing effective measures at the various industry levels to prevent and combat crimes in this environment,” CEO Simi Pillay-van Graan said.
She added that policing was not the key deterrent in fighting business robberies, but that the role fell to businesses owners, as it was mostly small businesses that were being affected.
However, civil rights organisation AfriForum was sceptical of the accuracy of the crime statistics. “While it may be true that the statistics released reflect reported crime, it is also a fact that some police stations may have in many instances failed to open up dockets and add all the charges that could have been brought against perpetrators to mask the true crime picture,” the organisation said in a statement.
Crime and justice programme head at the ISS Gareth Newham commented that the statistics did not reflect some serious endemic and emerging security threats facing South Africa, including corruption, public violence, group murders, political assassinations and domestic violence.
Regarding the increase in street- and business robberies, Newham stated: “These crimes impact very negatively on employment and the economy...We hope the police reflect on what they need to do to improve on at station level to tackle these challenges”.
Nevertheless, he said the ISS was heartened by the overall reduction in crime.
“It shows that although many crime categories are still at very high levels, in some respects we are heading in the right direction. The substantial reductions in violent crime such as car and truck hijacking, bank robberies and cash-in-transit heists demonstrate that in some areas, the police are improving.”
Meanwhile, Corruption Watch executive director David Lewis said it appeared that the crime statistics categorised much of the reported corruption as common fraud.
He noted that it was essential to isolate those reports of white-collar crime that were in fact corruption.
“Hopefully, this will ultimately lead to an increase in prosecutions under the Prevention and Combatting of Corruption Activities Act.
“Clearly, correctly identifying corruption in the statistics will better enable the public, the policy makers and the law enforcement authorities to combat it,” Lewis urged.