Questions raised about accuracy of police’s statistics

Major-General Norman Sekhukhune announces the 2017/18 crime statistics at parliament on Tuesday September 11, 2018.
Major-General Norman Sekhukhune announces the 2017/18 crime statistics at parliament on Tuesday September 11, 2018.
Image: Esa Alexander

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

While police management announced in parliament that 238 heists had occurred between April 1 2017 and March 31 2018, Sabric recorded 385.

It is not only the discrepancies in heists which is being questioned‚ but also the police’s crime detection figures‚ crimes the public report‚ murders and attempted murders – which University of SA criminologist Rudolph Zinn says need to be probed.

Sabric CEO Kalyani Pillay said the centre’s figures included attacks on vehicles travelling on the road‚ attacks on cash guards collecting or delivering money while walking across pavements‚ and all the different methods involved in committing heists.

Pillay said she did not know if the police were only recording the attacks on vehicles.

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

Zinn said while an analysis of the statistics showed that crime had decreased overall compared with the previous financial year‚ it should be taken into account whether reported crimes were an accurate reflection of what had occurred.

“Stats SA shows that when it comes to the reporting of crime there is huge under-reporting‚ with 51% under-reporting in crimes such as burglary.”

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 2008/2009 compared with the number of crimes the public reported in 2017/2018.

“It’s clear that less crime is being reported to the police.

“Whether this is due to a lower crime rate or loss [of] confidence in the police needs to be probed.”

Zinn said what also needed to be looked at was the police’s increased crime detection rate through their own actions.

“The SAPS provided figures for crime detection through their own action for 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,” he said.

“The increases were significant, with a 132% increase in crimes detected through police action for these categories over the past 10 financial years – 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 of crimes to police.

“How is it that the police are detecting more crimes but communities are reporting fewer crimes?

Zinn said there was also something peculiar about the murder and attempted murder increases‚ which usually showed a close correlation.

But “murder increased by 6.9% while attempted murder increased by only 0.2% [nationally]”, he said.

Police spokesperson Brigadier Vish Naidoo said the SAPS data was accurate.

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