VIOLENT crimes such as armed robberies, murders and hijackings in Nelson Mandela Bay are the highest they have been in the past three years.
This was revealed during the annual release of crime statistics in parliament yesterday by Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa.
Despite a national decrease in violent crimes, both the Eastern Cape and Nelson Mandela Bay have seen a spike, bucking the national downward trend.
Provincial police spokeswoman Brigadier Miranda Mills said 60% of the violent crimes in the province could be attributed to East London, Nelson Mandela Bay and Mthatha.
National figures reveal that the Eastern Cape has seen a steady increase in murders over the past four years, resulting in the highest murder rate per 100000 people for the entire country.
According to last year's figures, 3187 murders were reported compared to 3278 for 2011-2012.
The number of murders in Nelson Mandela Bay rose by 54 from 497 between April 2010 and March last year to 551 in the 2011-12 period.
The number of murders is the highest it has been since 2008, when 590 were reported.
The highest number of murders in Nelson Mandela Bay was in the New Brighton area, with 115 reported over the past year compared to 90 last year.
Kwazakhele was next with 99 murders, up 14 from last year's 85.
Bethelsdorp had the third-highest murder rate in the Bay, up 10 from the 56 cases reported last year to 66 this year.
Car hijackings in the Bay rose from 335 in the 2009-10 period to 376 this year.
Provincially, hijackings rose from 527 in the 2010-11 period to 644 – up by 117.
The most hijackings occurred in Kwazakhele with 120 reported cases, up 43 on the 77 in the 2010-11 period.
New Brighton was next with 89 reported cases, up 56 on last year's 33 incidents.
The hijacking figures for the Eastern Cape as a whole were the highest recorded in the province since 2003.
In the 2011-12 period, 644 hijackings were reported, up from 402 for 2003-04.
The increase goes against the national trend which saw hijacking drop from 10627 in 2010-11 to 9475 this year.
House robberies in the Bay are at the highest they have been since 2007, with 566 reported in 2011-12. This is a sharp increase from the 354 cases reported in 2007-08.
Kwazakhele was the worst affected, with 143 cases this year compared to 99 last year.
New Brighton was next with 92 home robberies and Walmer third with 44 this year.
Kidnapping increased sharply from 58 last year to 96 this year.
Business robberies in the Eastern Cape have also risen dramatically, with 2173 cases reported this year, up by 515 on last year.
Only 346 cases were reported in 2003.
In Nelson Mandela Bay, Kwazakhele was again the worst affected, with 92 business robberies last year.
Institute for Security Studies crime analyst Dr Chandre Gould said the increase in business robberies was a cause for concern.
"Small businesses make up 68% of South Africa's workforce and these are the businesses that appear to be targeted."
Gould said a further breakdown of the figures revealed that 13% of those arrested for armed robberies were still in school and more than 30% were employed.
"This is very worrying and measures must be put in place to drastically curb these robberies."
She said the spike in hijackings and house robberies in the Eastern Cape could be linked to the displacement of crime from other provinces.
Mills said Kwazakhele and New Brighton in Port Elizabeth, as well as Mthatha, had been identified as "priority stations" and crime prevention efforts in those areas would be increased significantly.
She said efforts to curb the increasing murder rate would see a clampdown on illegal taverns and shebeens.
Mills attributed the increase in hijackings to the growing number of attacks on vehicles owned by motor vehicle leasing companies, which were being targeted.
"In terms of robberies, we have seen that small and informal businesses are being targeted, especially foreign-owned businesses, because of the high cash flow and poor security measures in place.
"Countrywide, spaza shops make up about 35% of all the shops targeted," she said.
"We are committed to cutting crime even more, and with the help of the public we will succeed."
Mills said a series of special operational plans, including the deployment of undercover crime intelligence officers, would continue to target crime syndicates.
"There are many underlying socio-economic challenges contributing to crime trends.
"The police will partner with our communities, government departments and NGOs to ensure that the root causes of crime are addressed," Mills said.