Crime ‘down’, fear isn’t

Criminals are tightening their grip on the nation, leaving parents too afraid to let their children play on the streets or walk to school.

Though crime statistics released last week indicate a decrease in most crimes – a decline which policing experts deemed questionable – the Victims of Crime Survey paints a very different and very bleak picture.

The survey, conducted by Statistics South Africa between January and December last year, reveals a nation gripped by fear.

While Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa was dismissive of the public’s lack of faith in law enforcers, the survey reveals how vital public perception is in the fight against crime.

The findings of the survey – released in Pretoria yesterday – show that 15% of surveyed households don’t allow their children to walk to school, due to fear of their being attacked, compared to 14.7% in 2010.

The number of parents who barred their children from walking in the street or playing in their own neighbourhoods remained the same – 23% – as it was in 2010.

The percentage of adults who avoided public places out of fear of being attacked rose from 33.3% in 2010 to 35.1%.

Six out of 10 households perceived house-breaking as the most common crime, with the Eastern Cape (38.3%) and KwaZulu-Natal (36.4%) recording the highest incidence of house-breaking, while the Western Cape recorded the lowest (16.4%).

The study showed that 5% reported being asked for a bribe in return for a service from a government official.

Police corruption also increased from 21.4% in 2010 to 22.9%.

Bribery by traffic officials, while still high, decreased from 52.% in 2010 to 50%.

At 58%, Gauteng led the country when it came to the highest reported incidence of government officials soliciting a bribe in return for services, followed by the Free State at 53.7% and Mpumalanga at 53.6%.

When asked why they distrusted the police, 46% of households surveyed cited police corruption, 58% officers’ laziness and 35% police collusion with criminals.

A staggering 72% of the surveyed households said their distrust came from the police’s failure to get to a crime scene on time.

Gauteng was the population that most strongly believed the police were corrupt (63.8%) followed by Western Cape (59.2%) and the Free State (46%).

Gauteng also recorded the highest percentage (53%) – higher than the national average of 35% – of households who cited police cooperation with criminals as the reason for their distrust.

Institute for Security Studies policing researcher, Johan Burger, said public perceptions were vital in the fight against crime.

“It is strange and worrying that the minister disassociates himself with the public’s perception. Such surveys are vital as they point to the dark side of crime – which is 50% under-reported. These polls give a clear indication of what crime is occurring and how bad it really is,” he said.

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