Stats a concern

The latest police crime stats paint a harrowing picture for Hout Bay, with murder skyrocketing by 275% and rape by 42.9%.

Police Minister Bheki Cele released stats on Tuesday September 11. Tracking the period from April 1 last year to the same date this year, they paint a grim picture of crime in South Africa, with 20 336 murders reported – a 6% hike in the country’s murder rate.

And the bleak nationwide crime picture is mirrored in Hout Bay, where arson cases have doubled from seven to 14 cases, primarily due to the frequent rioting that rocked the village in the 2017/18 reporting year.

Contact crimes have gone up sharply: sexual offences by 33.3%, from 27 to 36 cases; attempted murder 21.4%, from 14 to 17 cases; common assault 47%, from 166 to 244 cases, and robbery 47.9%, from 48 to 71 cases. Robbery at non-residential premises jumped 140%.

And the local crime statistics, while obviously on a much smaller scale, reflect provincial crime trends.

Of the 12 stations recording the highest number of murders in 2017/18, nine are in the Western Cape: Philippi East (205 murders), Delft (195), Khayelitsha (192), Kraaifontein (186), Gugutethu (182), Mfuleni (157), Harare (142), Mitchells Plain (140) and Nyanga, which, again, was dubbed the country’s murder capital with 308 murders and a 9.6% increase in the crime.

At Hout Bay police station, 15 murders were reported for 2017/18, compared with four in 2016/17. And rape increased from 21 to 30 cases. There were, however, some areas that showed marked improvement. Home robberies were down 29.2%, and theft from vehicles by 21.7%.

Hout Bay Community Police Forum chairman, Anthony Chemaly, said the latest crime statistics “do not make for good reading”.

“I’m deeply concerned that crime is up. I did not expect some of the increases to be as high as they were, but they are indicative of the reality of crime in our area. The latest statistics are another overriding reason for more police officers and police reservists in our area,” he said.

He said the 100% uptick in arson could almost certainly be put down to social unrest in Hout Bay, that included protests in Imizamo Yethu and Hangberg. “There has also been a lot of taxi violence in Hout Bay, so of the 15 murders, there are several that have occurred because of this.” Mr Chemaly was not surprised that the number of home robberies had dropped.

“In the valley’s leafy suburbs, CCTV cameras have been put up and there is a high visibility of security patrols. Where there’s money around, the decrease in residential crime is not surprising. However, this also reinforces the concentration of crime around the poorer areas of IY and Hangberg.”

The police minister himself was not impressed by the statistics.

“(The) SA Police Service should put their heads on the block in that this situation must be arrested with the swiftness it deserves, and it must be reversed with lightning speed. The worst thing we can do, which cannot be done in my tenure in this office, is to come and give the same crime stats next year or worse to what we’ve currently done,” he said.

Ward councillor Roberto Quintas said the spate of lawlessness seen across Hout Bay reflected larger issues plaguing the country. Violent protests, which drove away job-creating investors, were not unique to Hout Bay, he said.

He said it was a travesty that the police were under-resourced, both in Hout Bay and across the province. “The Western Cape is notoriously poorly allocated resources and personnel by national government, as opposed to the other eight provinces. SAPS Hout Bay are doing the best they can.

“However, without effective allocation by national government, they will continue to be under extremely challenging circumstances.”

Roscoe Jacobs, secretary of the Hout Bay Civic Association, said the fact that seven out of 10 police stations in the Cape Town metropole had the highest murder statistics in the country showed local government had failed to address poverty in those communities.

“We can have as many police officers as we want, but I am willing to put my head on a block that most of the contact crime was perpetrated in IY or Hangberg. If people are given access to better living conditions, we can also effectively address crime in these areas.”

He said taxi violence could also be attributed to local government’s failure to manage routes.

Mr Jacobs said rioting was unfortunate but poorer communities in Hout Bay often felt that was the only way they could be heard.

Local businesses, he said, could help fight crime by supporting unemployed youth and keeping them occupied.

Hout Bay police did not respond to several requests for comment by the time this edition went to print.