The Citizen (Gauteng)
Crisis in crime intelligence
POLICING: DIVISION NOT EFFICIENT, SAYS REPORT
Operations drop from about 50 000 to just under 700.
When was the last time a police Crime Intelligence (CI) operation led to a major bust or prevented a threat to public safety? According to experts, those instances are becoming fewer and further apart.
A report on a recent discussion by experts and members of the intelligence community in South Africa shows the rapid deterioration of functionality and productivity at the South African Police Service’s (Saps) CI division.
The report by the Inclusive Society Institute shows CI operations have declined, despite CI receiving a larger share of the Saps budget every year and a significant endowment of police resources over the past decade.
According to the report by Gareth Newham, crime expert at the Institute of Security Studies, there’s a significant decline in operations in CI, indicating a decline in productivity.
In the period of 10 years, the number of CI network operations which are aimed at organised crime declined from about 50 000 to just under 700.
An assessment of network operations by CI shows a drop from 49 019 such operations in the 2011/2012 financial year, to a mere 859 in 2015/2016. This number declined even further to 311 in 2018/2019, slightly recovering to about 700 in the 2019/2020 financial year.
Newham notes in the report that the police budget has over the last decade (2011/2012 to 2019/2020) increased by 81%, rising from R53.5 billion to R96.8 billion. He says although CI forms only a small component of that budget (R4 billion), it’s proportional share has, over the same period risen by 113%. Despite this, it appears the division is not operating optimally.
Newham notes that it is very difficult to accurately measure the performance of Saps and CI because of the way it has changed its data systems.
“Since 2016/2017, CI has repeatedly changed their annual performance indicators so that it is not possible to obtain a clear understanding of performance trends since then,” says Newham.
This points to a serious problem, he adds, as the work of CI is supposed to guide policing in terms of visible and active policing, such as by identifying emerging trends, patterns geographical hotspots and modus operandi.
An anonymous contributor to the report highlights the role of controversial political figures in the deterioration of CI.
The difficulties with regard to the political interference at the division, they note, started with the appointment of Richard Mdluli as Saps national head of CI. This 2009 appointment was made by former president Jacob Zuma, two months after he was sworn in.
“Mdluli was responsible for well over 200 appointments, many reportedly including family, friends and loyalists.”
The Action Society has long called for a complete overhaul of South Africa’s crime-fighting agencies, especially at the CI division of Saps.
The division has been the subject of numerous inquiries in parliament, where it has been found to be mired in political interference, corruption and blatant abuse of state funds.
The lobby group’s spokesperson, Ian Cameron, says CI would have begun declining significantly after former Saps boss Jackie Selebi “dismantled” specialist units in the police.
Recently, questions were raised about the functionality of intelligence agencies, when over 300 people were killed during unrest in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng.
Eldred de Klerk, director and senior associate of the African Centre for Security and Intelligence Praxis, suggests there is not enough publicly available data to indicate how badly operations at CI have deteriorated, but he does believe the division is not operating at its optimum efficiency due to the leadership challenges which have affected Saps.
It is difficult to accurately measure performance
Factors such as the lift on the ban of alcohol sales may be a reason why the “crime holiday” is over and the crime statistics for the first quarter of this financial year 2021/2022 were high.
The first quarter crime statistics recorded double digits increase compared to last year’s skewed and abnormal crime trends due to the pandemic which coincided with the lockdown.
The crimes which recorded a double digit increase, according to Police Minister Bheki Cele, were contact sexual offences 20%, sexual assault 13.9%, and attempted sexual offences 13.2%.
Crime statistic and drug policy researcher Anine Kriegler said: “The dramatic increase from last year was because we compared this year’s statistics to a period of exceptionally low crime, because everyone was at home and unable to buy booze.
“We are mostly seeing a return to the trends seen before the lockdown. Those trends are due to different factors for different crime types. But I wouldn’t be surprised to see an increase in various crime rates over the next few years, because of the economic impact of Covid.”
Kriegler added the statistics were capable of changing towards a positive direction.
The crime statistics also revealed Gauteng’s top 40 police stations where the highest and lowest serious crimes were recorded.
The lowest area with serious crimes recorded included Ivory Park 18%, Roodepoort 21.7% and Randfontein 24.5%.
Ward 101 Democratic Alliance councillor Dalu Cele said Roodepoort had several councillors and he was responsible for areas such as Olivedale.
“Crime prevention is a collective effort, as ward councillors we get involved in a community policing forum (CPF) and is also linked to the nearest police station,” he said.
Cele said the CPF helped with ideas on how community members could protect themselves.
“It’s all about creating awareness and assistance of the crime situation in that particular area. We also work with South African Police Service (Saps).”
Ward 78 Ivory Park councillor Thompson Maluleka was surprised that Ivory Park Police Station was among the police stations with low cases for serious crimes.
“This figure is surprising and I will assume the people in Ivory Park have given up reporting the crime that takes place in the community,” he said.