Hout Bay police believe they have enjoyed a successful year after the annual crime statistics were released this week.
In a year that has seen widespread unrest stemming from protests, the statistics show a decrease in several key areas.
The statistics were announced by Police Minister Fikile Mbalula on Tuesday October 24.
Notably, four murders were recorded at Hout Bay police station between April 2016 and March 2017, as opposed to 12 in the period between April 2015 and March 2016. This is a decrease of 66.7%. Reported sexual assault cases dropped by 33.3%, from nine to six during the year-long reporting period.
Robbery at residential properties dropped by 5.9%, from 51 cases in 2015/16 to 48 cases in 2016/17.
Reported sexual offences dropped from 29 cases to 27 cases – or 6.9% – during the reporting period. However, there was also cause for concern as attempted murder cases increased by 40%, from 10 cases in 2015/16 to 14 cases in 2016/17.
Rape was also on the rise, increasing by 40%. Fifteen cases were reported in 2015/16 and 21 in 2016/17. Burglary at residential properties remains a problem in the Hout Bay policing district, showing a spike of 7.5% between the two reporting periods (293 cases as opposed to 315 cases in the latest window).
However, theft of motor vehicles and motorcycles has decreased by 15.2% (33 to 28 reported cases). Also troubling was a 600% spike in arson cases from the previous reporting period, from one in 2015/16 to seven in 2016/17.
“Overall I think we have had success,” said Hout Bay police spokesperson, Warrant Officer Tanya Lesch. “That success can be attributed to the partnerships we have with private security services, the neighbourhood watches, CCP (Community Crime Prevention and NGOs.” She said SAPS Hout Bay had been actively encouraging people to report crime in their area, in addition to conducting regular outreach workshops within the community.
“We want to thank people for their due diligence in reporting crime and suspicious incidents to us.”
Warrant Officer Lesch added the station had received a boost in July when police officers from the broader policing cluster were allocated to Hout Bay.
Numerous roadblocks were established during this period. “We had a hundred more officers on patrol, which made a big difference in reducing crime in Hout Bay.”
Hout Bay community police forum chairperson, Toby Adams, believed Hout Bay had a “good record” in the current reporting period. However, he preferred to look forward when it came to crime, and not dwell on what had happened in the past.
“The SAPS is greatly under-resourced, but fortunately Deep Blue Security, ADT and CCP have managed to keep a lid on crime. These entities are definitely adding to a reduction in crime in Hout Bay,” Mr Adams said.
“I have mentioned this before, but I believe one of our greatest challenges lies in monitoring people who have been released from prison. They have been put away for crimes they’ve committed, but then they re-enter areas and commit the same crimes again. It is a failure of the justice system.”
He emphasised that residents should remain vigilant at all times. “It’s not what happened in the past; it’s what happens tonight and tomorrow that counts.”
In a statement to the Sentinel, the Hout Bay Neighborhood Watch said from year to year some categories were up and some were down, but the “normal” was anything but.
“Since the inception of HBNW in 2005, our local SAPS have been under-resourced. In 2005 we were supposed to have four sector patrol vans crewed by two-man teams. We had and still do on paper have two sector vans but reality is that with officers off sick, on training or on leave, we often only have one sector van holed up at the station while its crew assists station staff to cope with complaints coming in the front door,” the watch said.
“National government has seen fit to disproportionately deprive the Western Cape of its due complement of SAPS officers and more recently is in process of reducing the number of total SAPS force by some 3 000 staff.
“In the police’s 2017/18 annual performance plan it was revealed that the personnel number will be decreased from 194 431 to 191 431 by 2019/20.”
The watch said it did not take a rocket scientist to see that this bode ill for all communities battling to cope with urbanisation where rising populations of jobless youth were prevalent.
“Recognising this in late 2014, HBNW initiated the HBCIA (Hout Bay Community Improvement Association) initiative to bring all of Hout Bays community safety organisations together to develop and implement an Integrated Community Safety Plan (ICSP).
“All role-players, including HBNW, CCP, CPF, Security service providers , SAPS and Law enforcement have participated in a series of workshops and briefings to ensure consensus and smooth implementation towards delivering sustainable funding through accountable structures which will then be used to prevent our ‘normal’ becoming even more abnormal.”
The HBCIA launch will take place in November.
“The steering committee currently consists of Brad Geyser as chairperson and co-directors Keri Cross, and Andrew Martin (chairperson of HBNW).
“It is a sad state of affairs that we have to invest so much time and effort in our communities defence but until national government realises that SAPS reductions are the wrong thing to do, we have little choice and encourage the citizens of Hout Bay and Llandudno to cooperate towards making ICSP an operational reality.”
Imizamo Yethu Neighbourhood Watch spokesman, Norman Mzantsi, said the body had noticed a decrease in house robberies, but was concerned about the growing presence of drugs in the settlement. “We would like to see more drug arrests. You’ve got these guys coming from Nyanga and other areas who are selling drugs to the kids. They see us patrollers trying to stop this, so we are afraid they are going to attack us. We would like the police to help us.”
CCP director Keri Cross said while the organisation welcomed the general decrease in crime, the fact that there were still 48 house robberies a year was “not good enough”. “From a CCP perspective, we have seen a dramatic decrease in residential crime over the winter. We attribute this to three full-time CCP vehicles on the roads and two highly-trained dogs assisting in our operations,” Ms Cross said. “However, we believe we should be able to get to zero house robberies. We can only do that if we double the contributions being made to CCP.”
Bronwyn Moore, of Hout Bay-based NPO Community Cohesion, said it was “great” that reported crime numbers were dropping. “As an organisation which deals with victim support, we urge residents to keep reporting crime. There is no such thing as a crime too small to report,” she said.