By SIYAMTHANDA PONGCO
Makhanda has two police stations – one in Joza, the other on Beaufort Street – and some locals may be surprised to learn that there is a significantly lower threat of serious crime in Joza than in the rest of the city.
News24’s recently released Crime Check website shows that serious crimes reported at the Grahamstown Police Station on Beaufort Street in 2021 gave the city a “severe crime risk”, 78.3% above the national average. By contrast, the number of serious crimes reported at the Joza Police Station is moderate, 8.3% below the national average.
One reason for the apparent unevenness in crime statistics is that people living closer to the CBD area are more likely to be insured and are motivated to report property crimes to make insurance claims. They are also more likely to afford the services of private security firms that have a close relationship with the SAPS. Furthermore, neighbourhood WhatsApp groups have proliferated in recent years, allowing for better communication around criminal incidents.
In township areas served by the Joza police station, neighbourhood watch groups actively encourage residents to report all crimes to the police, and many township residents use the Facebook group ‘Grahamstown Anti-Crime’ to report crimes. However, fewer people in township areas have the means to pay for private security companies, and fewer people have insurance policies.
Many communities have expressed dissatisfaction with the SAPS – with little faith in the police, most criminal activities go unreported, which results in misleading statistics.
Ground up reported that the only vaguely reliable crime statistic in South Africa is murder.
In some communities, people have resorted to ‘mob justice’ by taking matters into their own hands.
Several recent tavern deaths and shootings have left the people scared and calling for answers from the SAPS, particularly from the Minister of Police, Bheki Cele.
In Makhanda, people have hailed security companies such as Schmart and Hi-Tec for their quick response. But, the resources of private security companies can only stretch so far.
A knowledgeable source, who wished to remain anonymous for fear of reprisals, said the SAPS, the municipality, and the community need to come together and fight against unlawful crime taking place in front of our eyes. Makhandans are concerned about petty and more serious robberies, the use of illegal drugs, cable theft, and gender-based violence rampant in parts of our community.
Why does crime persist, and why does it take so long for the SAPS to apprehend known suspects?
The anonymous source said that criminals are laughing at both the SAPS and civilians.
“We are very aware of the people terrorizing our communities. They are living with us and giving us a hard time. What can we do as civilians as we fear for our lives? Yes, we do not want to interfere with the police and their work, but while we wait for the unknown, the criminals get away with evil acts, such as selling our children illegal drugs,” he said.
“Even when the police catch the suspect, which in many circumstances takes forever, they get bail, and their cases take years to prosecute. Can we pinpoint the blame on the police in such circumstances?” he asked.
The Community Policing Forum is involved in neighbourhood watches and “meets the police halfway in tackling crime.” But, the CPF is not a law enforcement agency, said chairperson Andrew Kirk.
The CPF is mandated through the South African Police Service Act to provide oversight of the SAPS to ensure it serves the community. In addition, it provides a crucial mechanism for the district to approach and communicate with the SAPS.
Rowan Engelbrecht (CPF, Sector 3) said they need more members to join the CPF, calling upon Makhandans to stand up against crime and discuss how it affects them. Engelbrecht emphasized that it is essential not only to blame the SAPS as the community has a “massive role” in eradicating corruption. However, the SAPS must also open the lines of communication to the public, as they are responsible as public servants, he said.
The table below, with a breakdown of all the serious crimes reported in the SAPS’s Grahamstown precinct in 2020 and 2021, shows that the overall serious crime rate has dropped year on year:
|Crime type||2021 reported||2020 reported|
|All other theft||398 (-3.9% change)||414|
|Arson||2 (+100% change)||1|
|Assault with intent||140 (-26.3%)||190|
|Attempted murder||3 (-25%)||4|
|Burglary non-residential||74 (-31.5%)||108|
|Burglary residential||231 (-37.2%)||368|
|Commercial crime||194 (+40.6%)||138|
|Common assault||253 (-5.2%)||267|
|Common robbery||43 (-41.1%)||73|
|Malicious damage to property||121 (-4.7%)||127|
|Robbery with aggravating circumstances||64 (-36%)||100|
|Sexual offences||54 (+8%)||50|
|Stock theft||9 (-71%)||31|
|Theft of motor vehicle||10||10|
|Theft out of the motor vehicle||219 (-32.2%)||323|
The table below shows the crime statistics for Joza SAPS:
|Crime type||2021 reported||2020 reported|
|All other theft||109 (+5.8%)||103|
|Assault with intent||173 (+16.9%)||148|
|Attempted murder||9 (-10%)||10|
|Burglary non-residential||14 (-26.3%)||19|
|Burglary residential||124 (-42.9%)||217|
|Commercial crime||12 (+9.1%)||11|
|Common assault||283 (+38.7%)||204|
|Common robbery||16 (-27.3%)||22|
|Malicious damage to property||107 (+42.7%)||75|
|Robbery with aggravating circumstances||42 (-33.3%)||63|
|Sexual offences||47 (+6.8%)||44|
|Stock theft||11 (-21.4%)||14|
|Theft of motor vehicle||6 (-25%)||8|
|Theft out of the motor vehicle||21 (-57.1%)||49|
Crime statistics also dropped slightly at the Joza SAPS from 2020 to 2021.
Joza also has a lower number of crime statistics compared to the Grahamstown SAPS. But are these statistics an accurate reflection of crime in the city? We should ask ourselves how many criminal activities go unreported, not just at the Joza SAPS but at the Grahamstown SAPS.