Crime stats point to a positive trend
There was room for cautious optimism on Friday, following the release of the country’s crime statistics for the first nine months of the 2016/17 financial year.
Yes, the murder rate is still horrific: only 10 fewer people (14 333) were murdered between April and December 2016 than during the corresponding period the previous year, with a significant number lost to domestic, taxi and election-related violence.
Yes, the armed robbery rate is worse, with 107 445 cases so far in 2016/17, marking a 6.1% rise.
And yes, the number of rapes reported has been reduced by 6.5%, which is bad news because rape victims only report the crime if they believe the police will do something about it.
But still there is room for optimism. Why? Because a corner was turned on Friday.
In Parliament, the crime statistics were announced by Major-General Norman Sekhukhune, the police’s head of research and crime statistics. There was no fanfare by Acting National Police Commissioner Lieutenant General Khomotso Phahlane, and no platitudes from Police Minister Nathi Nhleko.
Best of all, there was no glossing over the figures, as former police boss Riah Phiyega did, comparing them to those of nine years prior in a desperate bid to convince us that the service was not tanking under her watch.
Friday’s was a normal briefing with figures barely two months old – not six months old, like they usually are – given to us straight.
What the figures also show is that Phahlane’s back-tobasics programme is having some effect. Figures from the last quarter (October to December) of the threequarter period reported on show an improvement in most crimes, except for armed robbery. Phahlane, for all his flaws and the current case against him by police watchdog the Independent Police Investigative Directorate, is an experienced career cop. Who will replace him if the axe falls? Another career cop, we hope; one who will accelerate this downward trend.