‘The refusal of the SAPS to make crime statistics available on a more regular basis flies in the face of transparency and an open society.’

THE hype around the annual release of the crime statistics earlier this month has died down. The citizens of South Africa will once again have to wait for another year before they can find out what crime is being committed in their communities.

The moratorium on the release of crime statistics was introduced in 2000 because of the unreliable reporting and recording methods of statistics by the police. But the current rationale for the moratorium is invalid.

Police have argued that if stats were released for a period shorter than a year, they would be unsuitable for establishing reliable crime tendencies.

Crime statistics are now released once a year in September where they are between six and 18 months out of date.

The refusal of the SAPS to make crime statistics available on a more regular basis flies in the face of transparency and an open society.

“It is unconstitutional and a violation of the public’s right to know”, says Bobby Stevenson from the Democratic Alliance (DA).

“It is time the public held the SAPS more accountable and demanded to know what is happening in their communities. Surely the public has a right to be informed on a regular basis of crime in their city but more particularly, in their immediate neighbourhood?”

“After all, if there are a spate of burglaries or house robberies or a big increase in hijackings, then being aware of these facts helps one to take more adequate steps to protect oneself”, added Stevenson.

Communities that are hard hit by crime don’t need to wait up to 18 months to find out what is happening. They want to know now where the dangerous spots are. This is particularly so with regard to people who rely on public transport and have to walk long distances.

People who want to invest their life savings or who are bonding themselves to buy a house want to know what the crime situation in their neighbourhood is today. Foreign investors seeking to invest in our country want to know the truth about what is happening.

The news, of course, can also be very good. If crime has decreased in a particular community, one should be able to get the facts and make use of them.

It can also greatly benefit the marketing of a city or province when it comes to investment and tourism.

People are naturally attracted to areas where their safety is secure.

Community police forums (CPF) cannot function properly if they are kept in the dark. It is impossible for  CPF’s to be equal partners with the SAPS if they don’t have access to the same level of information.

The DA believes members of the public should be entitled to real-time crime statistics.

By keeping the public in the dark it allows rumour mongering to flourish and studies have shown it decreases the legitimacy of the SAPS. Furthermore, it is not a successful strategy to manage public fear.

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