Minister of Police, General Bheki Cele (MP)  released the National Crime Statistics for the first quarter of 2020/2021 on Friday afternoon…

While the majority of crimes decreased over the lockdown period, attacks on schools and liquor outlets increased. Cele also highlighted the major influence that alcohol plays in all crime, and called for a ‘frank and open discussion’ about its effect on communities.

He acknowledged the work of law enforcement officers around the country for their work throughout the Covid-19 outbreak. According to Cele, “over 14 thousand (14182) of our members tested positive for COVID-19. The majority of these infections occurred when the officers were in the front lines.”

“A total of 163 of our members have died from the virus while over 9 thousand (9563) have recovered.”

Millions of rands in contraband goods confiscated over lockdown

According to Cele, operations throughout the lockdown period led to the confiscation of millions rand worth of contraband goods.

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“They also removed illegal firearms off our streets and recovered stolen property including stock. These operations played a huge role in clamping down on illegal transportation and distribution of banned substances such as alcohol and cigarettes. They also got in the way of organised crime trying to take advantage of the new way of life.”

Lockdown figures show major drop in crime over hard lockdown

The first quarter figures date from 1 April 2020 to 30 June 2020. This is the same period when the country was under Lockdown level 5 and 4. The stats also reflect crime that took place in the first month of Lockdown level 3.

“These statistics show major decreases in all crime categories compared to the same comparative period last year. Indeed, the statistics we will release today, paint a never-seen-before ‘rosy’ picture of a peaceful South Africa experiencing a ‘crime holiday’.”

“Distorted numbers”

Cele acknowledged that the hard lockdown resulted in ‘distorted’ figures since many South Africans heeded the call to ‘stay at home’.

Alcohol ban played a role in decreasing crime

“It is important to acknowledge that the unavailability of alcohol also had a role to play. This is evident in the decreased numbers of cases of contact crimes which plummeted by 37.4%,” noted Cele.

This means there were 53 891 less cases of murder, attempted murder, assault GBH, Common robbery and common assault reported compared to the same reporting period.

The drop in crime cases is also demonstrated by a 29.4% decline in Contact-Related Crimes made up of arson and malicious damage to property.

During this time, South Africans were also safer in their homes, burglaries at residential premises dropped by over 30% whilst on the other hand Burglary at non-residential premises increased by 9.1%.

Increase in attacks on schools and liquor outlets

“Worryingly, there has been an increased number of attacks on schools and liquor outlets during this time,” noted Cele.

2 692 burglaries were reported at educational premises and 1 246 liquor outlets were targeted.

A total of 1186 suspects have been arrested for these crimes.

Drop in sexual offences

There has also been a big drop in the number of sexual offences recording a 39.7% drop on crimes such as rape and sexual assault. A 40.4% decrease in the number of rape cases were reported during the three months.

When I released the last annual crime statistics last week, I said the quarterly release of these statistics will allow for timeous intervention measures aimed at crime reduction.

Lessons learned & a “frank discussion” about alcohol needed

“There are certainly many lessons to be learnt from these recent figures as the SAPS and how we must channel resources where they are needed most in an effort to sustain these low numbers,” said Cele.

“But it is also time we as a country start having a frank and open discussion about alcohol and the real effect it has on society. The evidence is clear from these figures that the absence of alcohol leads to safer communities.”