Are the SAPS #CrimeStats accurate?

11 September 2018 - 14:31 By Graeme Hosken
Police Minister Bheki Cele during the 2017/18 crime statistics briefing in parliament on September 11 2018.
Police Minister Bheki Cele during the 2017/18 crime statistics briefing in parliament on September 11 2018.
Image: Esa Alexander

Questions are being raised about the accuracy of the latest annual crime statistics released by the South African Police Service (SAPS)‚ with the South African Banking Risk Information Centre (Sabric) revealing that its database contains almost 150 more heists than what the police have reported.

SAPS management announced in parliament on Tuesday that 238 heists had occurred between April 1 2017 and March 31 2018. For the same period, Sabric recorded 385 heists.

It is not only the discrepancies in heists that are being questioned‚ but also the SAPS's crime detection figures‚ crimes the public reports‚ murders and attempted murders‚ which‚ says the University of SA (Unisa) criminologist Rudolph Zinn‚ needs to be probed.

Sabric CEO Kalyani Pillay told TimesLIVE that for the same period covered by the SAPS's statistics‚ Sabric's database showed there had been 385 heists.

She said its figures included attacks on vehicles travelling on the road‚ attacks on cash guards collecting or delivering money while walking across pavements‚ as well as all the different modus operandi involved in committing heists.

"Our figures‚ which we have for the same period and which are recorded daily‚ are not the same as those the police have reported. They are more."

Pillay said she did not know if the SAPS only recorded attacks on vehicles or if it also recorded cross-pavement attacks.

"What we can say‚ and which compares with the SAPS data‚ is that for the period between April 1 2018 to August 1 2018‚ there has been a decrease in cash heists."

Zinn told TimesLIVE that while an analysis of the statistics showed that crime had decreased overall compared with the previous financial year‚ one had to take into account whether the reported crimes were an accurate reflection of what had occurred.

"Stats SA shows that when it comes to the reporting of crime there is a huge under-reporting‚ with 51% under-reporting in crimes such as burglary. If Stats SA shows 51% under-reporting when it comes to burglary, it gives you a very different picture of the number of crimes that are actually occurring."

He said the under-reporting of crime was supported if one looked at the 11% decrease in the number of crimes reported by the public to the police in the 2008–09 financial year compared with the number of crimes the public reported to the police in the 2017–18 financial year.

"It's clear that less crime is being reported to the police. Whether this is due to a lower crime rate or loss in confidence in the police is difficult to judge and needs to be probed."

Zinn said what also had to be considered was the SAPS's increased crime detection rate through its own actions.

"The SAPS provided figures for crime detection through their own action for the categories of illegal possession of firearms and ammunition‚ drug-related crimes‚ driving under the influence of alcohol and drugs‚ and sexual offences detected as a result of police action.

"The increases were significant with a 132% increase in crimes detected through police action for these categories over the past 10 financial years with the number of detected crimes rising from 186‚988 for these specific categories to 433‚966.

"But‚ while this is good‚ one needs to look at them in conjunction with the decrease in the public reporting crimes to police. How is it that the police are detecting more crimes but communities are reporting fewer crimes? One needs to probe if the police's detection rate is really having an impact and actually preventing crimes such as robbery‚ or whether the cops are simply focusing more on crimes they can easily prevent.

"One just hopes that they are not neglecting other types of crimes."

Zinn said there was also something peculiar about the increases in cases of murder and attempted murder‚ "which we usually see a close correlation between".

"Murder increased by 6.9% while attempted murder increased by only 0.2%. This needs to be probed because we do not know if people are becoming more successful when using lethal force or if there is a problem with the crime statistics."

Asked about the discrepancies in heists‚ and questions by criminologists over the figures of certain crimes‚ police spokesperson Brigadier Vish Naidoo said the data was accurate and based on what was reported to parliament's portfolio committee on police.

The SA Police Service releases the yearly crime stats on Tuesday, September 11 2018. Here are seven alarming figures from the results.