Crime and the media
SOUTH AFRICA’S currently high crime rate has over the past few days been high on everyone’s list of issues that President Thabo Mbeki needed to be strongly vocal on in his State of the Nation address at the opening of Parliament.
My main issue of contention is not to dispute the fact that SA indeed has an overexcessive crime rate – being ranked 10th for the highest total crime per capita (out of 60 countries) by the United Nations Office for Drugs and Crime is by no means acceptable by anyone’s standard – but with the manner in that it was presented by the general media.
With reference to your Editor’s Note: To My Mind (8 February) statements such as “…steps to deal with the worsening crime situation” and claims that things have “worsened in SA” present the general attitude that media coverage has had on the crime situation in SA. I for one believe that the media has the power to shape public opinion and thus needs to act with due diligence. Publications such as yours hold high esteem in public and academic arenas and thus such aforementioned statements are viewed as fact. And, as such, I should hope to believe that SA’s “worsening crime situation” is actually measured on actual crime data either collected by yourselves or other institutions.
Just for interest sake, studies (at least those I could access) show that SA’s crime rate has been steadily decreasing year-on-year. The latest statistics I could find (I’ll admit, maybe constrained) for 2004 generally (emphasis on generally) concur with the latter sentiment. With the exceptions of illegal possession of firearms, shoplifting and driving under the influence, all other crimes have decreased.