POLICE Minister Bheki Cele and National Commissioner Khehla Sitole recently announced a new “high density stabilisation intervention” to tackle crime. The strategy focuses on cash-in-transit heists, car hijackings, murder, house robberies, and gang and taxi violence.
It includes the deployment of deskbased police officials to the streets in “identified hotspots”, while dedicated detectives track suspects wanted for organised and repeat violent crimes.
The strategy comes on the back of a multi-year rise in aggravated robbery, and a recent spike in robberies targeting cash-carrying armoured vans. It has already resulted in key arrests, and should thus be celebrated.
But more than 90% of violent crimes recorded each year fall outside the categories named in the strategy.
To significantly reduce violence and harm in South Africa, police should expand the strategy: (1) focus on murder hot spots, (2) tackle domestic violence effectively, and (3) implement targeted, evidence-based interventions.
First, for the police to improve public safety most effectively, it should focus a significant amount of its resources on reducing murder. Murder is the most reliable crime statistic and the best proxy for violence more broadly.
Where murder is common, so is other violence. Murder and associated types of violence affect far more people, and cause far more harm than car hijackings, house robberies or cash-in-transit heists.
A significant number of murders in South Africa is predictable, so police should be able to reduce it. For example, in 2015/16, 78% of murders occurred in