South Africa

SA’s policing systems ‘so outdated an offender is nine steps ahead’

South Africa’s losing battle against crime suggests strongly that it is time for a paradigm shift, according to a crime expert.

This year’s three-day Policing Indaba hosted by the Police and Prisons Civil Rights Union (Popcru) began yesterday at the Birchwood Hotel and OR Tambo Conference Centre in Boksburg.

Under the theme, Building Ideal Policing and Corrections for the 21st Century, the indaba brought together over 200 participants from different fields including academics, researchers, law enforcement agencies and government departments, to deliberate and establish ways of improving the country’s policing and overall law enforcement.

Speaking at the summit yesterday, crime expert Prof Kholofelo Rakubu said insufficient and ill-equipped personnel, combined with outdated systems and a fragmented police department, contributed to a system unable to cope with the need to provide services to all the people of SA.

She said systems were so outdated that an offender was nine steps ahead.

“We are talking of cybercrime, among others. Things have changed and we must be honest that we can’t keep up.

“Crime levels in SA require updated systems that will be at least 1o steps ahead. Right now, it looks like we’re doing the chasing. We are always reactive.”

On the impact of the proliferation of firearms and growth of organised crime, and changes in the demographic composition, Rakubu said SA was evolving at a greater level but the evolution was not on par with crime prevention, or control or any other strategy.

“Are we ready as a country for a paradigm shift? From academic space, it looks like you are still policing as if this is 1994. You have not evolved,” she said.

Rakubu said SA was also not winning the battle against crime due to the politics of crime. She said there was a lack of interest in programmes set up to fight crime.

“For example, (someone), as the provincial commissioner, is running or pushing a particular safety agenda, the minute that person leaves, they leave with that agenda,” she said.

“We do not care as a country whether that programme you came up with, the effects or the beautiful fruits it may bear. We now personalise or politicise those programmes.

“That is why, as a country, we still today talk about National Crime Prevention Strategy, which was developed in 1996. Leaders came in and they left with their programme, and not because they wanted to leave with it.

“Politically, that’s how South Africa functions and that is how South Africa is going to lose the battle against crime.”

While the World Population Review revealed SA had the third-highest crime rate in the world – and third-highest rape rate globally – Popcru’s president, Zizamele Cebekhulu-Makhaza, said yesterday it was important to note there were several serious underlying issues and flaws in the data collection methodologies which must be addressed.

SA also had a notably high rate of assaults, homicides and other violent crimes. Makhaza said the latest quarterly crime statistics painted a “bloody picture of violence tearing away at our social fabric” while citizens trembled in fear in their homes.

“Popcru does not believe these (stats) provide an accurate account of crime trends. These figures are not aligned with the realities facing our members and communities, and the situation may be even worse than indicated.”

He said it was time for a thorough review and discussions to rectify the discrepancies to represent the true state of crime in SA.

“Accurate and transparent statistics are, therefore, vital to facilitating evidence-based decision-making within the justice system, ensuring government implements more effective, targeted interventions to combat crime.”