Crime will be back soon with a vengeance, experts warn
Spurred on by a huge increase in unemployment, the recent reduced levels of crime were likely just another calm before the storm.
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Crime experts believe the slight reprieve from the high crime statistics that are a norm in South Africa is about to be over and ministers spent the weekend briefing the country on how to manage the surge of activity in public spaces and lockdown Level 3 regulations.
During Level 4, some crime trends had already picked up, said crime expert for AfriForum Ian Cameron.
Hijackings, armed robberies and burglaries were on the rise, compared with the first four weeks of the lockdown from March, he said.
“What lies ahead is surely a dramatic spike in business and house robbery; let’s just say robbery and robbery aggravated, burglaries, theft and hijacking.”
Cameron’s predictions echoed newly released data by security tech company Netstar, which showed that some crime trends had already returned to normal.
According to Netstar operations executive Charles Morgan, statistics from the vehicle recovery sector showed that crime levels were getting back to normal as the lockdown was relaxed.
According to the company, which operates in the vehicle recovery space, at the start of the lockdown, vehicle-related crimes declined to almost nothing.
Netstar’s recovery partners reported that, for the first time in decades, entire days would go by without a single car being stolen in South Africa, an unprecedented occurrence.
The drop-off was largely attributed to the fact that there were dramatically fewer cars on the roads.
“As the lockdown progressed, our data has shown a slow increase in the numbers of stolen and hijacked vehicles. This may be because criminals are becoming desperate, or because they are becoming more brazen and accustomed to lockdown conditions,” said Morgan.
Anti-crime activist Yusuf Abramjee said violent crimes had begun to pick up from the onset of Level 4, when more people were allowed freedom of movement.
Cybercrime and gender-based violence had also picked up, although figures differed on whether gender-based violence, especially as it pertained to domestic abuse, had spiked since lockdown started.
Police spokesman Brigadier Vish Naidoo said it was to be expected that as more people moved around in public spaces, certain crimes would occur more frequently. He denied there was any indication that an increase in domestic violence had been experienced as a result of lockdown.
The banning of alcohol sales had played a large role in bringing down some statistics.
“An unfair comparison has been repeated several times by Police Minister Bheki Cele to previous crime stats over the same months, creating the idea that crime is at an all-time low due to crime-combating efforts by government,” said Cameron.
“It would be more accurate to say crime did show decreases in certain areas due to Covid-19 restrictions, especially the restriction of movement, but not actual crime combating by government.”
Organised crime could become a new alternative for some of the thousands of newly unemployed people, he added.
“Crime, especially offences such as theft or housebreaking, where there is limited or no contact between the victim and the perpetrator, will increase, as people resort to these while trying to put food on the table.”
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