Durban - The murder rate might be down in KwaZulu-Natal, but your home is not as safe as it used to be.
Residents’ insecurities and fears of intruders invading their homes were justified on Thursday when the national crime statistics confirmed that housebreakings were rampant in the province.
More than 40 000 residential burglaries occurred from April 2011 to March 2012, an increase of 4 percent since the previous year – the only serious crime to increase in the province.
Overall KZN showed declines in all categories of crime with a significant drop in hijackings and murders, which decreased by 14.9 percent and 8.7 percent respectively.
National crime statistics also showed a downward trend in most categories of crime with Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa stating that 65 percent of the country’s murders resulted from interpersonal arguments often fuelled by alcohol and drug abuse.
In his speech, Mthethwa said sex crimes remained “stubbornly high” and that crimes against children were concerning.
Senior researcher Johan Burger said serious and violent crimes in KZN had been declining over the past couple of years, and the latest statistics were a continuation of this trend, which was “positive”.
The change from violent crimes to property crimes, including housebreakings and theft, was “interesting”, although he was unable to determine the reason for this.
“The huge economic meltdown may be part of it,” he said.
He added that “less sophisticated” criminals might resort to theft and burglaries (which, unlike robberies, do not involve violence or the threat of violence) in order to avoid contact crimes.
Burger added that since the credibility of the crime statistics was called into question two years ago following manipulation by some police officers, the Institute for Security Studies had used other sources to judge crime levels, and had found that the police statistics were similar to these. He was therefore confident that the SAPS crime statistics could be relied upon to fairly reflect the crime situation in the province.
However, David Bruce, an independent crime researcher, formerly with the Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation, believed that in most categories of violent crime, the police statistics did not accurately reflect the situation.
“Statistics for most categories of violent crime can be regarded as unreliable. The ones that can be regarded as more reliable are some of the sub-categories of aggravated robbery. It is only where there are external factors, such as insurance claims, that ensure cases are recorded, that they can be regarded as reliable.
“There is evidence that shows that one of the reasons murder is going down is likely to be that cases are recorded as culpable homicide.”
Bruce added that the decrease in categories of aggravated robbery such as house and business robberies, and hijackings were not necessarily a result of police work.
“We can see that these crimes are still high in less affluent areas, but in middle- to higher-income areas, people are investing lots of funds in private security companies. Businesses are doing the same, therefore these decreases could be attributed to this investment in private security.”
The statistics showed the government’s heavy-handed approach was not working.
“The police strategy to deal with crime is to use maximum force, fight fire with fire. They have been able to bring down cash-in-transit heists through this approach, but this does not work for any other categories of crime.”
Sam Pillay, director of the Anti-Drug Forum, also said the drug-related crime statistics, which showed an increase from 32 457 to 37 415, were not a reflection of increased police detection as stated in the statistics, but rather of the actual situation on the ground.
“There definitely is an increase in alcoholism and drug addiction and the statistics are quite clear. This is what is worrying us.”
The forum believed the police could do “a lot more” in taking action against the drug dealers, some of whom had been trading from the same areas for the past 10 years.
KZN police spokesman Colonel Jay Naicker said the province was pleased with the overall statistics.
“We are especially pleased with the reduction of murders and attempted murder by 8.7 percent and 6.4 percent respectively as well as an overall reduction in contact crimes by 2.8 percent.
“We are also pleased with the overall reduction of all categories of trio crimes [vehicle, house and business robberies] by 8.1 percent and especially the 14.9 percent reduction in carjacking. This means the strategies we employed have borne fruit.”
However, apart from residential burglaries, common robberies and thefts – which increased by 4.3 percent and 5.7 percent respectively – were a challenge.
KZN’s MEC for Transport, Community Safety and Liaison, Willies Mchunu, expressed concern about driving-under-the-influence offences, up by 2 757 incidents.