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REDUCING "OPPORTUNITIES" FOR CRIME CAN MINIMISE CRIMINAL ACTIVITY

The release of the 2016/2017 national crime statistics revealed that crime in South Africa has seen a decrease over the last year. Despite the overall decrease of 1.8%, we note with concern that violent crimes such as murders, hijackings and armed robberies are on the increase across the country.

It should be noted the data released in the report is based on incidents that are reported to the South African Police Service (SAPS). Subsequently, the figures contained in the report are not inclusive of unreported or undetected crimes and are therefore considered to be conservative. According to Derek Lategan, Managing Director of Excellerate Security, “the industry has noted a definite increase in the number of people not wanting to report crimes to the SAPS”. He is therefore urging all victims to not only report crimes to SAPS, but to their Security Company as well. Crime reports add to the intelligence that both SAPS and Security Companies gather and analyse in order to allocate resources.

According to the SAPS report, housebreakings, one of the most feared crimes in South Africa, has decreased by 1.6%. However, our own statistics show that there has been an increase in housebreakings over the last year.

The high levels of unemployment in the country were cited by Lategan as a definite contributor to the high crime levels. “An unemployed individual living in desperate conditions is more likely to take advantage of an opportunity that is presented to them. They will do whatever they need in order to survive”.

Anthony Feuilherade, Director of Excellerate Security, agrees that an increase in opportunities is a contributing factor to the rising number of housebreakings and theft. “During our day-to-day operations, we often notice gates that have been left open, valuable items such as bicycles left outside as well as windows and doors left wide open “says Feuilherade, “All of these factors present opportunities to criminals, which in turn contributes to the increase in crime levels”.

From his experience in the field, Nico Potgieter, Head of Investigations, suggests that a further contributing factor to the high crime levels in the country is the large number of repeat offenders that are committing crimes. “A number of syndicates operating across the country are made up criminals that have been arrested before” states Potgieter, “Once they are released they go straight back to a criminal’s lifestyle.” He also added that syndicates comprise of numerous members and it is extremely difficult to arrest all of the members of the syndicate, as a result the syndicates continue to operate with new members continuously being inducted into the syndicate.

A deeper analysis of crime statistics reveal that despite a large number of crimes being committed in the early mornings and late evenings, 36% of violent crimes occur in the afternoons between midday and 5pm. in-house Crime Analyst, Caitlin Naylor suggests this is indicative of a concerning strategy that has been adopted by criminals in recent times. In more and more cases criminals strike while residents are at home and have let their guard down. By using violence and threats criminals are able to make away with more valuables as the victims are forced into pointing out the location of valuables and providing the codes for safes, bank accounts etc.

Naylor also found that 45% of violent crime occur on Thursdays and Fridays. The reason for this is largely debated in the field but it is suspected that this is related to criminal lifestyle and their requirement for cash over the week-ends.

The increase of crime during the holidays and weekends can be attributed to a matter of volume. When more people are outside on the streets or relaxed at home with a lowered security awareness, there is more opportunity for crime.

Lategan encourages South Africans remain vigilant and to be aware of their surroundings at all times. If each individual takes responsibility for his/her own security, criminals will be presented with less opportunities to commit crime, which will subsequently result in a decrease in crime levels.


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