Editorial: Be afraid as crime spirals out of control

Johannesburg – The latest quarterly crime statistics, which were released by Police Minister Bheki Cele on Friday, do not make for good reading.

We must all be afraid – very afraid – when the police minister tells us that a total number of 4 976 citizens were murdered in a period of just three months under his watch.

That is shocking by any standard as those figures show us to be a country at war with itself.

From a sample of 4 911 murders, according to Cele, a total of 2 378 people were killed in public places while a further 1 327 people died in their places of residence or at the perpetrator’s residence, including the homes of family friends and neighbours.

It has become abundantly clear that South Africa is losing the war against crime as perpetrators of violence against women and children appear to be running amok, if Cele’s statistics are anything to go by.

Despite there being a decrease of 4% compared to the previous reporting period, the plague of gender-based violence (GBV) remains appallingly high with 9 518 people raped between January and March this year.

As Cele correctly described it, sexual violence meted against women in this country was “simply shameful” considering that out of a sample of 6 893 of the rape incidents reported, 4 130 of such incidents took place at the home of the victim or the home of the alleged rapist. Cele insisted that GBV remains a priority crime for the SAPS.

He told SA of the tide turning against the perpetrators. We are, however, sceptical as the numbers do not lie.

There are still some within the police service who are not taking sexual crimes seriously.

There are many police officers who are sleeping on the job.

This week, an audio clip emerged of a man who was ignored by the police as he desperately rushed to a police station to report that a woman was being raped by a group of men in the street at night.

Service at police stations remains shoddy. Victims are not being offered sufficient support and are not even believed by the police in many instances, resulting in many cases going unreported as victims decide not to report their cases for fear of being subjected to the police’s cold and negative attitude.

There are low levels of victim satisfaction with police response as well as negative or poor treatment by the police, who don’t demonstrate enough empathy towards victims.

We can never be satisfied about the police performance as long as citizens live in fear in their own homes, including non-residential places such as businesses, churches and schools.

We can never be content about police performance for as long as violent car hijackings remain the order of the day in the townships and suburbs.

Our country’s crime levels will remain forever scaringly high as long as the police force remains plagued by corruption, bribery, botched investigations and shoddy training, among many things.

Police credibility remains very low because of the shocking high levels of crime. The safety of citizens is non-negotiable, Mr Minister.

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