Crimes stats mixed bag

Annual crime statistics were released last week.

Three police precincts in the Southern Mail area will have their work cut out after a spike in certain crimes was revealed in the recent crime stats, spanning the period April 2017 to March 2018.

The Grassy Park precinct showed carjacking shot up from 23 in 2016/2017 to 34 while drug-related crime increased from 1 698 to 2444 at Steenberg precinct and burglaries at residential premised had risen from 353 to 396 in the Wynberg precinct.

Police Minister Bheki Cele released the annual crime statistics on Tuesday September 11, showing a 6% increase in the national murder rate with 20 336 murders reported in South Africa during this monitoring period.

Mark Rossouw, spokesperson for Steenberg Community Police Forum (CPF), said the spike in murders in the Steenberg precinct, from 43 to 55, can be attributed to gang violence as “gang violence has been raging in the precinct for the better part of 12 months”.

Station commander Colonel Jan Alexander said despite the results from the crime stats, there was still a lot to be done and the bottom line was “to lose a life irrespective of the circumstances is one life too many.”

He said the involvement of the community matters and they should take ownership of their area. “I call upon them to come forward to make sure that they curb crime with us.”

Colonel Alexander said partnerships in this fight was crucial and the community should report crime. “If they do not trust the members (police officers) then they must report the crime to me.”

He also encouraged the community to join the structures of the CPF and said they will receive an analysis on how the police station function.

Mr Rossouw said the illegal possession of firearms – dropped from 90 to 87 – and drug related crimes – increased from 1 698 to 2 444 – were the most prevalent crimes in the precinct and the police diverted a lot of resources to curtailing these crimes. He said they have had a lot of successes in relation to illegal firearms over the past six months. “The Steenberg precinct has been plagued by gang violence over the past 12 months. The secondary effects of gang violence are that all the station resources are diverted to Lavender Hill during the gang violence, which in turn causes a spike in other crimes in the rest of the precinct.”

According to the latest stats, sexual offences have dropped from 81 to 73, which Mr Rossouw said included mostly the rape of women and children. He said while they were pleased that this number had decreased steadily, “it would have been better if the reduction was a lot less”.

He said malicious damage to property, which had slightly decreased from 327 to 325, does not only relate to private property, but also state and local government entities. “This is a concern, but the neighbourhood watches also play a big role in curtailing this type of crime.”

Burglary at residential premises decreased as well, from 270 to 222.

Mr Rossouw said burglaries were always high in the Steenberg precinct, especially in Heathfield and the Avenues in Retreat. “SAPS are already working on a holiday plan, which will include the neighbourhood watches and ward councillors.”

In the Grassy Park precinct there is a huge concern in drug-related crimes, which raised from 1 763 to 2 251.

Philip Bam, spokesperson for Grassy Park CPF, said a plan of action should focus on having drug dens forfeited to the state and the drug dealers evicted.

“Drug peddling remains a major problem. Theft and burglaries feed this habit,” said Mr Bam. “We call on police to give warnings to people whose premises are being used for drug peddling – they stand a chance of losing their property. The police are aware of these places. Most drugs move during the night. Police must do more checks on vehicles and the runners on bikes.”

Colonel Christian Esau, spokesperson for Grassy Park police, who is also acting station commander, said: “SAPS are dealing with drug dealers, targeting them on a regular basis, by doing stop-and-searches, patrolling crime hot spots and high visibility patrols in the area”.

Incidents of possession of illegal firearms and ammunition dropped from 88 to 55.

Mr Bam said illegal firearms week mainly in the sub-economic suburbs where gangsterism was rife. “Police are continuously looking for guns. Sometimes when they raid houses, some community members attack police. Many people are not prepared to report guns brought on their premises by their children. Parents must take a tough stand and be prepared to report this.”

Colonel Esau urged the community to provide information on the whereabouts of illegal firearms.

While murder cases increased by one, from 28 to 29, Colonel Esau said most of Grassy Park SAPS murder cases were due to gangsterism in areas such as Parkwood and Lotus River.

Carjacking increased from 23 to 34 and Colonel Esau said they had regular stop-and-searches, vehicle check-points and patrols in the area as part of their operations.

Mr Bam advised people not to leave windows open as they approached traffic lights. “Look around not only in front, watch if you are being followed. Change the speed at which you travel to check if the car following will pass you.”

The Wynberg precinct saw an increase in the number of murder cases, from two to five, and an increase in common robbery, from 121 to 135 cases in the 2017/2018 financial year.

Cases of robbery at residential premises decreased from 29 to 18 reported cases during the same period. Robberies at non-residential premises decreased from 17 to 14 cases.

Burglaries at non-residential premises decreased from 158 to 156 reported cases, while burglary at residential premises increased from 353 to 396 reported cases. Theft out of motor vehicle and motorcycle increased from 162 to 147 reported cases.

“Theft out of or from motor vehicles decreased from 702 to 633 reported cases.

Drug-related crime decreased from 639 to 508 reported cases and driving under the influence of alcohol and drugs increased from 81 to 240 reported cases.

Shamila Nicholas, Wynberg CPF chairperson, said most of the crime categories in the precinct traditionally remained constant except for residential and business robberies.

She acknowledged that there had been increases of theft out of motor vehicles in parking areas, near the library, and Pick * Pay. “Community members need to become more security conscious and vigilant. Items like laptops car radios, cellphones and wallets are being stolen out of parked cars. Street robberies also increased in Main Road and subways and at the railway interchange. Most victims were targeted with a knife or gun,” said Ms Nicholas.

She said she hoped to see more drug trade related arrests in Wynberg as a result of collaborative efforts between the police and the CPF.