Western Cape Government Calls for the Reinstatement of Specialised Units
Media Statement by Dan Plato, Minister of Community Safety
I am pleased about the many downward trends reported nationally following the release today of the annual crime statistics for 2010/2011, but in the Western Cape alcohol- and drug-related crimes have increased and must be collectively addressed.
The Western Cape has high instances of violent crime and 80% of these are fuelled by alcohol and drugs. Strong, consistent and coordinated action is necessary to tackle the causes of these crimes.
Premier Helen Zille and I have therefore today called for the reinstatement of specialised units to tackle alcohol, drugs and gangsterism. I will be seeking to meet with Minister Mthethwa on this issue and Premier Zille will take up the matter with the President.
Today's release is an important event, as it forms a gauge of the level of violence and the need to increase safety in South Africa.
In the Western Cape, the murder rate is marginally up from 2 274 cases in 2009/2010 to 2 311 cases in 2010/2011. Attempted murder is also up in the Western Cape from 1 707 to 2 162 in the same period.
The decrease in the number of sexual offences is most welcome news, down by 3.1%. In the Western Cape, the total number of reported sexual crimes follows this downward trend from 9 678 to 9 299. Most worryingly, the drug-related crime ratio has risen by 10.2% nationally. The Western Cape has been particularly hard hit by this type of crime.
Drug-related crimes in the Western Cape have increased from 60 409 reported crimes in 2009/2010 to 70 588 reported crimes in 2010/2011. Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs has also increased nationally by 4.5% and the number of cases in the Western Cape by 10.2%. Increased policing and roadblocks on provincial roads must however be taken as more arrests are being made. The Western Cape also reported the highest increase in the ratio of assault with intent to inflict grievous body harm - an increase in the ratio year on year of 5.4%.
In light of the above, alcohol, drug abuse and gangsterism are our three main focus areas.
We are fostering partnerships with all spheres of government, government departments and civil society, academia, communities and NGOs. Through an integrated approach, we are striving, through short- to long-term interventions, to reduce the opportunities for crime to occur, reducing the motivation to commit crimes and longer-term economic development. In this way, we can prevent crime from happening rather than just dealing with the consequences of the crime after it has occurred.
It is well documented that alcohol and drug abuse are major contributors to violence and crime, ranging from organised crime and gangsterism to interpersonal violence and road fatalities. It is estimated that approximately half of the violent deaths in the Western Cape are alcohol-related.
Through integrated approaches, the Provincial Government has implemented various interventions and is driving initiatives to prevent violence and crime:
- We have passed the Western Cape Liquor Act, which is viewed as the toughest liquor legislation in South Africa. It seeks, amongst others, to restrict drinking in residential areas, clamps down on the supply of alcohol to illegal liquor outlets and creates safer drinking environments. The implementation plan was approved by Cabinet last week and will now be rolled out. This will greatly reduce the opportunity for crime as well as the motivation for crime to occur.
- Our Safely Home Campaign has had many successes in preventing illegal substances from entering the province. We are also continually ensuring that drunk drivers are caught and arrested. The Western Cape is the only province to do integrated alcohol blitz roadblocks every single weekend across the province.
- New Shadow Centres have been opened and, in partnership with the Cape Argus, we are publicly naming and shaming convicted drunk drivers. The Department of Community Safety supports and partners with Neighbourhood Watch structures and provides equipment and training. Some 1 637 volunteers have been trained in the last 18 months.
- Our comprehensive plan to reduce drug- and alcohol-related harm in our province places great emphasis on prevention. Our Department of Social Development has increased its budget for addressing alcohol and drug abuse by 50% in the last two years and we are now subsidising 5 000 spaces in drug treatment programmes - up from 3 700 last year.
- Schools have been empowered to test learners and educators for drugs on a reasonable suspicion basis since the Provincial Education Act was passed at the end of last year.
- The Department of Health will be embarking on a provincial-wide "Booza TV" campaign to address society's views on alcohol use and to reduce alcohol-related harm, with special emphasis on alcohol-related violence.
- A total of 826 safety coordinator volunteers have been placed at 183 schools, of which 207 have received additional training at the Chrysalis Academy to enhance their skills to become school safety coordinators. One of these initiatives is the Walking Bus service, currently being piloted in the Delft area. School safety volunteers escort groups of young learners on foot to and from school. This creates a safe and supervised environment for young learners.
- Data from the mortuaries indicates that violent deaths are concentrated in a handful of areas in the province. We are currently undertaking a gap analysis to determine what interventions those areas are missing so that all risk factors of violence are addressed.
- Youth Development Programmes have thus far targeted more than 400 youth at risk to steer them away from gangs and drugs. These programmes run in conjunction with three Skills Training Workshops for parents.
- Our Department of Cultural Affairs and Sport runs over 100 MOD after-school centres across the province which aim to provide after-school activities, increase adult supervision and provide skills in sports or dance to learners. This helps prevent children from falling prey to substance abuse, crime and gangs.
- My department has an ongoing anti-gang strategy, which partners with national and provincial government departments as well as community organisations in eight gang-ridden areas to target anti-gang interventions focussing on youth at risk, parental skills and identifying gang high flyers for prosecution.
- The province, in conjunction with the City of Cape Town will, next month, begin training for the Ceasefire pilot project in Hanover Park, an area plagued with high levels of gangsterim and violence. This aims to interrupt violent behaviour and reduce shootings and killings through highly trained violence interrupters and outreach workers. It will be run as part of the Violence Prevention through Urban Upgrade (VPUU) project which is expanding to include Hanover Park, Gugulethu and Mannenberg.
- My department is working at strengthening its oversight muscle over law enforcement agencies to ensure the efficient allocation of resources. We aim to ensure that resources are allocated according to the policing needs and priorities of the communities of the Western Cape.
The statistics today show that much still needs to be done. Law enforcement plays an important role but cannot do it alone.
It is clear that the Criminal Justice System, the responsibility of the National Government, needs to be strengthened. As improved detective training is vital in securing convictions and improving conviction rates. Court backlogs remain a constraint to delivering justice and the lack of properly managed sentencing plans and poor quality rehabilitation programmes for inmates often means that offenders fall back into a life of crime.
Crime, and particularly violent crime, not only robs citizens of the right to live a life free from the fear of crime, but it also stunts economic growth and job creation. One of the province's 12 strategic objectives is that of increasing safety. To do this, and prevent crime from happening in the first place, we advocate for the "whole-of-society" approach and making safety everyone's responsibility.
Finally, I wish to commend the brave SAPS officers for their work in upholding the law and their efforts in keeping South Africa safe.