News agency, Cape Town, South Africa
Tuesday July 16th 2019

Beware the middle class influence on crime priorities, warns CSVR

Yugendree Naidoo

The middle class is more audible and has greater access to the media and we therefore need to guard against the wealthy dictating which crimes are prioritized by the police, states the Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation (CSVR).

The CSVR’s statements came in the form of a press release in response to the long-awaited crime statistics released by Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa on Tuesday.

Of concern to the CSVR was the tendency to focus on ‘trio robberies’ which consisted of residential robberies, business robberies and car and truck hijacking.

While noting the seriousness of the problem with trio robberies, which comprised 47,273 incidents, a 22.6% increase from the previous year, they made up 38.9% of all aggravated robbery cases.

Most aggravated robberies were ‘street robberies’, which constituted 60% of all aggravated robberies.

But because trio robberies predominantly affected the middle class, they tended to receive more attention, said the CSVR, while the poor were more affected by street robberies, which were also likely to make a greater contribution to the murder rate.

However, the CSVR noted that this was not to say trio robberies had “a bigger impact on the middle class than they do on the poor (more business robberies, for instance, may take place in poor areas than in wealthier ones)” but the fact that they were given higher priority reflected wealthier people’s “disproportionate impact on national priorities”.

“The impact of violence on poorer South African communities is not well understood or integrated into how crime priorities are conceived.”

It also raised concerns about non-recording of crime as it impacted on 7-10% targets and performance monitoring systems in the police which may have contributed to the problem of non-recording of crimes.

“Such a problem is likely to have been concentrated in crimes such as common assault and common robbery as well as possibly in the ‘street robbery’ and ‘assault GBH’ categories.”

“Therefore the current statistics may under represent the total number of crimes in the above categories and ultimately painting a distorted picture of the current violent crime situation.”.

But the CSVR is also calling for focus on armed violence along with sexual violence (which includes armed violence and non-armed violence cases) being seen as a central concern.

“We believe that the core problem which should be the focus of government attention should be seen as the problem of ‘armed violence’ incorporating all violent crimes committed with guns and knives,” it said.

Business Against Crime South Africa (BACSA) CEO Dr Graham Wright responded by saying the statistics “reflect a mixed bag of results, where reductions in reported crime in some categories are dampened by significant increases in other categories”.

In a press release on their website, Wright said business robberies recorded the highest increase of 41,5%, with small business being most affected, having being the target in almost two thirds of business robberies.

He said the business community reinforced their commitment to working with government to reduce opportunities for crime in the business sector, and were deeply concerned at the high level of crime and violence generally.

“The increase in Robbery with Aggravating Circumstances remains of particular concern and especially the increases in the Trio crimes such as Business Robberies, Residential Robberies and Vehicle and Truck Hijackings because these crimes are problematic for the business community and citizens, and consequently remain a high priority for both business and Government.”

However, we are encouraged that the Minister has identified direct measures to address these crimes as a priority, he said.

Human Rights Commission (HRC) senior crime and human rights researcher Danzel van Zyl said the crime stats needed to jointly released with results from the Department of Justice.

Van Zyl said along with the crime statistics, it was necessary to know how many arrests had been effected and how many successful prosecutions there had been

“We need accurate information to know if we making any progress in dealing with crime in South Africa,” he said.

He said the under-reporting of crime was also a concern as “a large percentage of South Africans” had no faith in the police.

“People face secondary victimisation from going to the police and therefore don’t even bother reporting assaults when (they are) alcohol related.”

He said the crime statistics should “be taken with a pinch of salt” as they gave a false impression that violence in our society was decreasing. – West Cape News

Tags: Crime

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