A year ago, the disclosure of South African Police Service (SAPS) crime statistics report brought its harvest of dire news: crime still inflicts a bloody bite at the society. Today, for the first time since 1995/1996, figures reveal a stabilization of violent crime and a slight dip in street violence: both decrease of carjacking and street robberies make the public places safer. Also, the level of social -or proximity- crime’s is reported to be receding.
While figures keep soaring, South African government together with various community based initiatives have finally managed to curb the level of murders/day under the bar of 50. In preparation of the World Cup, extraordinary efforts have been made: strong mobilization and more visible police’s presence in the streets, patrolling the highways and in the airports have largely contributed to slash violent crime by making it more onerous and stifling for roaming criminals.
Of course, some will argue that again numbers give a narrow view on crime, which we reckon lack some accuracy. As for last year, some questions arise: what is the human cost? what are the socio economic consequences? It might be interesting to collect and confront data from insurance, hospitals, prosecutors offices to highlight the full extent of crime’s impact on South African society , as well as to provide relevant indicators on capacities deployed to take on the issue.
Given the magnitude of the challenge, South African authorities needs to devote more stamina into the National Crime Prevention Strategy (1996). They also need to develop alternative ways to sharpen the fight against crime: providing regular information on statistics (monthly or quarterly) and launching a poll campaign on “how safe do you feel living in South Africa?”, can be crucial to change the perception about crime, stop the bleeding, and keep foreign investment’s tap up and running.
However, in comparison to other countries, SAPS is not shy to tell the truth: the country still surfs on top of the global crime wave, following the blood path of a few fragile Caribbean and Latin American states. It is difficult to hack on bad habits and easy to contentedly gossip on how bad crime is in South Africa.
So, what’s next? We all know South Africa can achieve a lot as a nation when it comes to pride. More than a pyrrhic victory, the 2009/2010 crime statistics report is a strong signal to prompt security momentum and bring national pride upfront . Thus, in turn, will enable a swift shift of public space’s ownership back into the right hands: streets belong to the people. In other words, and collectively, South Africa citizens should mobilize and make the hunt difficult as in the end, criminals will lose the ground, swallow the bite and finally pass on. There are reasons why so many community based initiatives are successful, and this is enough rationale for SAPS to engage violent crime more decisively out of the comfort zones.
Finally, security is about geographical space and control over territories. Public space has symbolized this hunting territory for too long. Let’s stem the patterns and rock the roles: it is time for criminals to feel uncomfortable and for the police to retrieve its hunting skills, re conquer the streets and retrieve a sense of mission.
Give it a chance.
For more in information on :
Crime Statistics: www.saps.gov.za/statistics/reports/crimestats/2010/crime_stats.htm
Global Benchmarks on Criminal Justice: www.flickr.com/groups/1333923@N20/pool/show/with/4362885586/