Victory shot down
Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa painted a rosy picture yesterday of the war against crime, but the "resounding" successes of his charges were immediately shot down by experts.
Flanked by police top brass - including national commissioner Riah Phiyega - Mthethwa explained that all serious and violent crimes had declined by 3.5% .
He said murder dropped by 3.1%, hijackings by 11.9%, sexual offences by 3.7% and robberies with aggravating circumstances by 1.4%.
Despite this "victory", the Presidency yesterday announced the deployment of the army across the country over the next five months to help fight crime.
Crime analysts and policing specialists have disputed the decreases in the crime figures, saying the public was being "lied" to and claiming the police had deliberately manipulated the statistics.
When questioned on the validity of the statistics, an irate Mthethwa - who revealed the SA Police Service statisticians were based within crime intelligence - and Phiyega dismissed the need for an external audit as well as the alleged lack of public faith in the police.
"I am not here to talk about public faith . It is not what this is about," he retorted.
Mthethwa's comment came moments after he admitted the public's lack of trust in the police's ability to solve and combat crime led to under-reporting of rape - which he admitted was "unacceptably high".
Phiyega hit out at questions on external audits, saying the "auditor-general conducted audits only on predetermined outcomes of the police's annual report and nothing else".
The government's attempts to show that it is winning the war follows the Statistics SA's 2011 crime victim survey - whose results were released in November - revealing massive under-reporting of crime.
Questioning the validity of the police statistics, Unisa criminologist Rudolf Zinn said it was alarming that no external audit was allowed.
"The statistics of the Pretoria police stations of Erasmia and Wierdabrug - which were among the country's worst for years - suddenly show remarkable decreases", with their crime levels falling below provincial and national levels, Zinn said.
At Erasmia police station, murder dropped from 75 in 2010-2011 to just 13 for 2011-2012, with sexual crimes dropping significantly from 125 to 28 over the same period. Armed robbery decreased from 379 to 149, a more than 50% decrease.
At Wierdabrug, murder dropped from 36 to 12, sexual crimes from 160 to 88 and armed robbery from 665 to 392.
"Yet, when one asks for an explanation, none is provided. On top of this, whatever is being done 'right' is not rolled out to other stations in their policing cluster.
"The absence of reasons casts serious doubt . the methodology used to gather and record information must be queried," said Zinn.
He said the statistics document was "farcical"..
Institute for Security Studies researcher Dr Johan Burger said though there was a "so-called" decrease, "it is what had been left out that was of concern".
"The response by the national police commissioner to questions on an independent audit is worrying. How can an independent audit be conducted only on predetermined outcomes? How can you say you are not concerned about public faith when minutes before you say it is the lack of faith that leads to under-reporting of sexual offences?" he said.
Burger said what was worrying was the rate at which crime was declining: "The rate has been more than halved. The police are nowhere near their targets, with some categories of crime, such as business robberies, increasing."
He said it was vital that independent audits were conducted to ensure crime related-information was captured correctly.
DA MP Dianne Kohler Barnard said: "The lack of independent verification, destruction of dockets and the 'burying' of crimes within different categories means the true picture will never be known."
Zinn said it was virtually impossible to determine the true picture in categories such as murder.
"Some murders are listed and others are not. This is because some people think certain kinds of murders, such as farm killings, are not important.
"It is like rape. They say it is down, yet it is not listed anywhere in the document," he said.
Last year, rape was categorised separately for the first time since the Sexual Offences Act came into force in 2007, but this year it was again grouped under sexual offences.
Zinn said the overall decrease of 1.9% was insignificant, saying the drop was not because of police, but rather because of initiatives by the public and private companies.
He said this was confirmed by cash-in-transit companies. A survey confirmed it was information they gathered that led to planned robberies being foiled.
Burger said police formed strategies on six-month-old statistics. "How can you develop proper crime-fighting plans when you don't know what you are basing them on?" he said.
Why crime stats are fudged
- Unisa criminologist Rudolf Zinn: "Serious questions must be asked, especially of police stations that record sudden, major, unexplained decreases.
"In science, if there is a substantial reduction in large numbers there would have had to be significant reasons for the reductions.
The Stats SA 2011 Victims of Crime survey revealed worrying under-reporting of crime.
"Housebreaking was under- reported by 41%, house robbery by 44% and stock theft by 64%, yet police report decreases in these crimes," he said.
- Institute for Security Studies researcher Dr Johan Burger: What was worrying was that the police statisticians worked within crime intelligence, "which is completely dysfunctional".
- DA MP Dianne Kohler Barnard: "There is a deliberate attempt to hide statistics because the government does not want the public to know that it does not know how to deal with crime."