Crooks cashing in on booze, smokes — Cele
Police minister Bheki Cele admits organised crime syndicates have taken advantage of the lockdown to expand the illegal trade in illicit and counterfeit alcohol and cigarettes.
His admission about the increase in these crimes appears to give credence to critics of the government’s strict regulations on the ban of both products.
Critics have argued that the ban would open space for contraband.
“We know criminals are opportunistic‚ so organised crime syndicates have taken advantage of the lockdown‚ especially the ban on alcohol and cigarettes,” Cele told a press briefing yesterday.
“They have expanded their trade in illicit and counterfeit alcohol and cigarettes.”
Cele said about R2.67m in “contraband” items had been confiscated at SA’s borders.
Smuggling of liquor and tobacco products between SA’s land borders with Botswana‚ Eswatini‚ Lesotho‚ Mozambique and Zimbabwe‚ as well as the sale of these products on the black market, had also increased.
“Our lockdown partners‚ the SANDF‚ have disrupted some of these operations‚ mainly along SA borders with Mozambique‚ Zimbabwe and eSwati‚” Cele said.
He said they had confiscated contraband‚ including alcohol and cigarettes‚ worth about R1.07m in March and R1.6m in April.
His admission also comes after research showed the ban on cigarette sales did not necessarily stop access to the products.
Cele revealed that 230‚000 people had been charged with contravention of lockdown regulations‚ including “liquor-related offences and cigarette-related offences‚ illegal gatherings‚ failure to confine to place of residence‚ cross-border and interprovincial movement‚ business-related and transport-related offences and fraudulent or no permits”.
The provinces with the highest number of arrests for the contravention of lockdown regulations “almost mirror the provincial infection rates‚ with Western Cape in the lead‚ followed by Eastern Cape‚ KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng”‚ Cele said.
He also announced a big decline in crime under the lockdown.
“In relation to serious and violent crime, we announced in April that there was a dramatic decline in, especially, the contact crime category, which includes domestic violence, as well as in trio crimes of house and business robberies, and hijackings.
“Again, this time around, we have compared crime since the lockdown to crime over the same
period in 2019. While the figures remain low, comparatively speaking, we have noted slight increases in some crime categories,” Cele said.
He said the reasons behind the numbers were yet to be determined.
Comparing the periods of March 29 to May 21 2019 vs March 27 to May 2020, Cele said:
● Murder was down by 63.9%, from 2,970 cases to 1,072 cases;
● Rape was down 82%, from 5,350 to 919 cases;
● Attempted murder down 56%, from 2,571 to 1,132 cases;
● Assault with the intent to cause grievous bodily harm (GBH) was down 80.4%, from 22,144 to 4,348 cases; and
● Robbery with aggravating circumstances was down 63.3%, from 14,822 to 5,397 cases.
He said car hijacking was down by 70%, robbery at nonresidential premises declined by 60%, and robbery at residential premises was down by 49%.
“When we compare incidents of cash-in-transit robberies during the lockdown to the same period in 2019, the number has dropped remarkably from 26 to only four incidents,” Cele said.
He said though the lockdown figures for serious and violent crime were still lower in comparison with 2019, police had noted an increase in hijackings, especially when comparing the first two weeks of the lockdown when SA was under level five to the first two weeks of level four lockdown restrictions.
“Most hijacking incidents were recorded in Gauteng, followed by the Western Cape, KwaZulu-Natal and Eastern Cape,” Cele said.
He said there had also been a significant decrease in the number of reported genderbased violence cases. TimesLIVE
GOOD AND BAD: Police minister Bheki Cele says there has been a significant decrease in crime during the country’s lockdown, but syndicates are capitalising on the alcohol and cigarette ban