THE latest crime statistics have much to concern us.
The downward trend of the last five to 10 years seems to be grinding to a halt. The stabilising of crime levels, albeit high, seems to have reversed: violent crimes, such as murder, attempted murder and aggravated robberies, show increases.
The stats show 650 more murders were committed than in the previous cycle. Robberies have also spiked – people are not only attacked in the street, but also in their homes. But the conviction rate seems to be about 50% of the arrest rate.
Why has this happened this year: why has the downward trend not continued?
The inroads made in the past have been arrested. Is this the start of a change in trend to a more violent trend?
So, all in all, the stats do not paint a pretty picture: this leaves us with more questions and huge concerns instead of satisfaction or relief that the South African Police Service's (SAPS) crime-control system is working.
This is certainly not a story of crime being under control. Neither is this a story of hope.
Service delivery and performance within SAPS should focus on good intelligence, dedicated detectives, adequate resources and strengthening senior management to improve outputs.
At the same time, we must state that preventing crime does not start with the police – they are at the far end of the continuum. Primary first-line crime prevention is not the main function of the police.
Good and efficient social policies are vital to prevent crime. Healthcare, adequate housing, good education and training, work opportunities and services are the building blocks of a healthy citizenry.
We, as ordinary citizens, also have a primary role to play in ensuring that our own family members are constructive citizens – parents must take up their responsibility as well.
Let us look at positive news: there are scores of non-profit organisations and other agencies working hard at reversing the social pathology that threatens the fabric of our society. These organisations are offering citizens hope and help in dealing with poverty and problems that destroy families.
These agencies are voluntary, poorly resourced and staffed by underpaid workers and unpaid volunteers, yet they are our unsung heroes.
Let us showcase these agencies and note the other side of the crime stats. Given that police services start after a crime has been committed; these organisations bring relief to families and communities requiring social services to uplift them. Also, they assist in basic needs.
In 2012-13, the National Institute for Crime Prevention and the Reintegration of Offenders (Nicro) – a voluntary association with expertise, dedicated professional staff, plagued by poor resources and low pay – offered almost 45000 successful intervention programmes.
Other civil society organisations share similar successes and make an impact through the work they offer to citizens.
Nicro believes in investing in our country's human and social capital. Also, it will continue to offer its services, as it has done for the past 103 years, albeit under trying circumstances. And, in so doing, we also pledge our support to the criminal justice system, in general, and SAPS, in particular, in their work.
Jacques Sibomana, communication and marketing manager at the National Institute for Crime Prevention and the Reintegration of Offenders