There has been a “massive” drop in the national murder rate during last year’s festive season when compared to the previous year, Police Minister Bheki Cele revealed on Tuesday.
“The festive season period, according to the SAPS calendar, which is from October 15 to January 11, has been the safest,” Cele said.
He was speaking to reporters at a press conference in Durban during the release of the police’s safer festive season report.
“This period has seen a massive drop in most major crimes, with a lesser number of people killed compared to the same period the previous year. The national murder rate during this period declined by 1.4%,” he said.
Cele said police action during the period also resulted in the arrest of over 84,000 suspects for various criminal offences.
“Seventeen-thousand of them remain behind bars and [are] going through the legal system,” the Minister said.
Cele added he was concerned that 173 of those who were arrested, were parolees. However, he reiterated that the arrested parolees were not part of the more than 14,000 inmates recently given special remission of sentences in President Cyril Ramaphosa’s recent pardon.
Cele revealed that the contact crime category also decreased “apart from common assault and robbery with aggravating circumstances”.
“Women and children were also safer this festive season, with sexual offences, which includes crimes such as rape, sexual assault and attempted sexual offences, decreasing by 9.9%,” he said.
There was also a drop in all contact-related crimes, such as arson and malicious damage to property, he said.
“Property-related crime, such as burglary at residential and non-residential premises, theft out of vehicles and stock theft, decreased by 10.2%,” he said.
However, Cele revealed that there were still “stubborn crimes”, such as car hijackings, which needed urgent interventions and resources.
“While 388 suspects have been arrested for car hijacking during this period, there were more carjacking and truck hijacking cases during the 2019 festive season period, which increased by 11% and 9% respectively,” he said.
Cele said police also managed to confiscate 4,831 firearms during raids and roadblocks.
He said these firearms were not part of the illegal firearms amnesty currently underway.
He warned those who had not returned illegal firearms during the current amnesty period that police will not be saying “please, but [will be] kicking doors” when the amnesty period ends in May this year.
Cele said police were still concerned about the increase in drunk driving cases.
“[A total of] 24,827 drunk drivers were arrested as a result of police action. This means 4,048 more people were arrested by the SAPS for driving under the influence of alcohol and drugs compared to the previous comparative period,” he said.
The minister said he was convinced that alcohol remained “the enemy of our society and is a main driver of many contact crimes”.
Cele said 6,124 liquor stores and taverns were shut down due to non-compliance. “Over 2,000 of these outlets were operating in the Eastern Cape,” he said.
He also commended police for the arrest of 223 illegal immigrants at Durban beaches on January 1. He said those immigrants were undocumented immigrants who were all arrested in just two hours.