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Violent crimes increase, precautions need to be taken

By Staff Writer
The latest crime statistics for the period of April 2014 to March 2015 were released this week. According to the statistics, contact and contact-related crimes increased from the period April 2013 to March 2014, from 611 574 to 616 973 and from 123 441 to 125 789 respectively. However, property-related crimes have decreased from 558 228 in 2013/2014, to 553 487 for 2014/2015.
 
Violent crimes
 
In a statement released by Dianne Kohler Barnard, the Democratic Alliance (DA) shadow minister of Police, noted: “The DA is deeply, deeply concerned for all South Africans who today face another year of increased levels of crime. This comes after the 2014/2015 crime stats released today that violent crimes are on the increase.”
 
While there was only an overall increase of 0.9% for all contact crimes, Dr Pieter Groenewald, Freedom Front Plus (FF Plus) chief spokesperson, pointed out that when violent crimes alone are taken into account there was a higher increase.
 
Murder increased by 4.6% from last year, while attempted murder increased by 3.2%. Robbery with aggravating circumstances increased by 8.5% from last year.
 
“The increase in violent crime indicates that South Africa is increasingly becoming a violent country,” said Groenewald.
 
In addition to increases in violent crime, there has also been a 2.4% increase in drug-related crime from last year. However, it is a 182% increase compared to 2004/2005 results.
 
The credibility of the statistics
 
Barnard revealed: “We note with cautious optimism the Minister’s declaration that these Stats have been produced in consultation with StatsSA which is a welcomed acknowledgement for the need for these stats to be verified. The DA will, however, impress upon the Minister and the Commissioner that in order for these numbers to have optimal credibility and legitimacy; that they be audited by an independent body with no ties to the government. This will go a long way to restoring the public’s confidence in these stats.”
 
According to Groenewald, “The credibility of the statistics is also suspect and the fact that Statistics South Africa was part of the process, does not make it any more credible.”
 
He goes on to add that the problem of reporting crimes and gathering accurate statistics is at station level where the crimes are reported. “Many people complain that after crime has been reported, a week later there is no record of it at the police station.”
 
The classification of the crimes when they are reported has also been questioned by Groenewald. He noted: “I personally reported a robbery at the Parliamentary residential area, Acacia Park, which was later classified as ‘damage to state property’.”
 
According to the FF Plus, crime statistics should be released quarterly so that steps can be taken to prevent these crimes in a timely manner.
 
Insurance
 
Helen du Toit, head of audit and forensic services at Santam, noted that underinsurance is a common problem. “In the face of these troubling statistics and the detrimental impact on the people and economy of South Africa we recommend that consumers make sure that they are adequately insured against the growing risk of criminal acts.  Aside from psychological trauma associated with burglaries and hijackings there is also the risk of an unforeseen financial setback.”
 
In addition to the latest crime statistics which have revealed increases in home and business break-ins and vehicle hijackings, Sanlam’s claim data for the same period has revealed the following:
  • A 21% increase in reported commercial vehicle hijacking claims.
  • A 21% increase in reported household robbery claims (theft by use of force or violence).
  • A 19% decrease in domestic house breaking claims (breaking and entering a property).
  • A 13% decrease in the theft of private vehicles.
  • A 13% increase in reported business robbery claims.
  • A four percent decrease in reported commercial vehicle theft claims.
 
“When it comes to protecting assets, the focus should be on maintaining the right insurance cover whether this be for personal possessions or assets associated with a business enterprise,” said du Toit.
 
It is important that valuable items are specified in the insurance policy, especially when it comes to moveable assets. Having specific and sufficient insurance policies in place can help to offset the cost that a burglary incurs.
 
Furthermore, du Toit adds: “The adoption of a more vigilant approach to crime awareness and securing assets and possessions via the appropriate insurance cover can reduce the debilitating impact of criminal incidents within our communities but the responsibility towards combatting crime remains a shared one.”
 
Citizens need to take care
 
Lizette Erasmus, head of insurance expertise at IntegriSure, has noted that the crime statistics highlight the need for South Africans to take extra precautions to ensure their personal safety, as well as to protect their belongings.
 
“It’s more important than ever for South Africans to be aware and vigilant at all times, and ensure they are protected,” noted Erasmus.
 
In addition to practicing some common sense and general awareness, there are other steps that people can take to prevent crime and ensure the safety of their families, homes and vehicles, Erasmus added.
 
Here are some precautions you can take to ensure your safety:
  • Erect a perimeter fence as a first line of defence and a barrier to entry.
  • Encourage a culture of keeping doors and security gates locked at all times.
  • Keep a minimal amount of cash in the house.
  • Ensure you have clear visibility around your property by keeping plants and trees neat and trimmed.
  • Install lights to properly illuminate any dark pathways and outdoor areas.
  • Stay abreast of any happenings in the area.
  • Many incidents are the result of ‘inside information’. Erasmus suggested conducting background checks on potential employees before hiring anyone.
  • If a staff member or employee leaves, ensure that you get back any keys to the property that they might have, and change the codes for security systems, such as alarms.
  • In the event of a burglary or suspicious person entering or loitering nearby, it is important that you take note of important features such as height, hair colour and cut, ethnicity, and clothing, as this could be a vital clue in catching the suspect.
  • “Hire a reputable security company with a proven track record of positive results for households. This may include the provisions of security guards on site, CCTV monitoring, alarm systems, and roaming armed response vehicles – make sure that a clear and prominent sign is displayed outside the property stating that these measures are in place, and that these systems are regularly tested for their effectiveness,” added Erasmus.
 
In addition to the above precautions, there are also steps that you can take to protect your vehicle. Erasmus suggested installing a tracking device, avoiding known hijacking spots in the area, ensuring that your vehicle is properly locked before leaving it and installing anti-smash and grab on vehicle windows.

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