No info on SAPS guns used in crime

12 October 2011 - 16:24 By Sapa
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The SA Police Service does not have information on how many lost or stolen police firearms have been used to commit crimes, Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa said on Wednesday.

He was responding to a written parliamentary question by the Democratic Alliance's Dianne Kohler-Barnard, who asked whether any civilian or police officer had been shot with a firearm registered as lost by, or stolen from, the SA Police Service (SAPS).

"Information is not available on how many firearms registered as lost or stolen were then used to commit crime in each province," Mthethwa said.

The department kept a generic database of firearms used in the commission of crimes, irrespective of whether the victim was a civilian or a police member, he said.

Kohler-Barnard also wanted to know when the Integrated Ballistics Identification System started marking SAPS firearms. Mthethwa said the marking of SAPS firearms was managed through an integrated process between the firearm permit system, which generated a unique barcode, and the provisioning administration system, which was the master asset register.

All firearms were identified through a unique serial number allocated to the weapon at manufacture. The additional markings attached to SAPS firearms were to further enhance identification.

A total of 171,500 SAPS firearms had been marked as at August 31. Another 91,191 SAPS firearms still had to be marked. A plan to mark all police firearms by the end of the financial year was in place, Mthethwa said.

In a statement later, Kohler-Barnard said SAPS's inability to keep track of its own weapons was fuelling the illegal firearms trade the police were supposed to be fighting.

"This is beyond unacceptable."

The fact that a third of the police's firearms still needed to be marked to clearly identify them as SAPS weapons meant it was impossible to track where many of the lost and stolen firearms ended up.

"It certainly explains the low recovery rate of seven percent when it comes to missing weapons," she said.

In the past five years, 11,935 police firearms had been lost or stolen.

Negligence, incompetence, and outright criminality appeared to be on the rise in the SAPS. This growing trend was evidenced by the extraordinarily high figure of R11 billion earmarked to defend civil claims against the SAPS.

Mthethwa needed to acknowledge this problem, apologise to the South African public, and begin to address it before it spiralled completely out of control.

"The police service exists to stop crime and violence in South Africa, not contribute to it," Kohler-Barnard said.

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