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Too early to judge impact of Gauteng’s crime wardens, says provincial police boss

Too early to judge impact of Gauteng’s crime wardens, says provincial police boss
Gauteng Police Commissioner Elias Mawela. (Photo: Gallo Images / Fani Mahuntsi)

Presenting Gauteng’s quarterly crime statistics on Tuesday, provincial police boss Elias Mawela said the controversial crime prevention wardens ‘serve as our eyes and ears’ and their impact could only be judged after they had been on the ground for a year.

Four months following the deployment of crime prevention wardens in Gauteng, provincial police commissioner Elias Mawela says it is too early to say if they are helping in crime prevention efforts.

This comes as crime statistics for the first quarter of the 2023/24 financial year presented at the Gauteng legislature on Tuesday, 29 August, revealed that curbing serious crime had been moving at a snail’s pace.

For instance, 1,489 people had been killed from April to the end of June 2023, one fewer compared with the same period in 2022, translating to a 0.1% decline.

 

“It is still early for us to come to that kind of conclusion. For now, we appreciate what we see on the ground because [crime prevention wardens] serve as our eyes and ears, they serve as an extension in terms of increasing visibility and so forth…”

The province’s overall crime for the quarter increased by 4%, which translates to 4,022 more counts compared with the same period in 2022. 

Mawela said a year would be sufficient for police to conduct an impact assessment on the effectiveness of the crime prevention wardens, dubbed “amaPanyaza”. 

An investigation by Daily Maverick revealed that Gauteng Premier Panyaza Lesufi jumped the gun in appointing and deploying 6,000 crime prevention wardens. There was also evidence of abuse committed by some wardens, who seemed to be doing little to actually protect citizens from crime.  

Read more in Daily Maverick: Gauteng Crime Prevention Wardens set up unlawfully — experts 

Read more in Daily Maverick: ‘They started beating me, kicking me’ – Lesufi’s Gauteng crime prevention wardens accused of brutal assault

Of those murdered, 167 were women, 47 were children and 12 were police officers. Despite the slight decrease in the number of murders, the commissioner said it was nothing to celebrate. 

“One murder is just too many. The reduction means nothing to those people who have lost their loved ones.”

Most of the murders were committed using firearms, knives and sharp objects, prompting SAPS to intensify its operations to stop the proliferation of illegal firearms. They also embarked on a wide search for dangerous weapons.  

“We have managed to seize 1,877 firearms (illegal, unlicensed and stolen firearms) and 21,517 rounds of ammunition as well as 1,244 dangerous weapons through our targeted and crime intelligence-led operations, vehicle checkpoints and stop-and-go searches,” Mawela said.

The stats also point to murder, sexual offences, attempted murder, assault with intent to inflict grievous bodily harm and robbery as the main contributors to the province’s overall contact crime rate.

Common assault and assault with intent to cause grievous bodily harm increased by 11.3% and 7.8% respectively, with a combined increase of 20,088 counts. Rape cases went up by 1%.

A total of 13,214 people were arrested for contact crime offences, Mawela said.  

Carjacking decreased by 12.1%, and Mawela said although the percentage reduction seemed small, police welcomed it.

“To us as law enforcers, any reduction is welcomed as it is an indication that less people were affected by these crimes, which means we are slowly working towards reducing overall crime in this province.”

Meanwhile, counts of crimes like shoplifting soared to 4,290 compared with last year’s 3,532, which means 758 more incidents were recorded, showing an increase of more than 20%.

Daily Maverick previously reported on hunger and poverty driving the spike in shoplifting across the country. Between 2021 and 27 June 2023, 6,001 shoplifters arrested across South Africa were referred, via court processes, to the National Institute for Crime Prevention and Reintegration of Offenders (Nicro) to be placed in intervention programmes. Nicro aims to halt the rising numbers of shoplifters in South Africa and rehabilitate them back into society. But it’s proving to be a battle against inflation and poverty.

Read more in Daily Maverick: ‘I know I’m sinning, but it’s for my kids’ – hunger and poverty drive spike in shoplifting in South Africa  

Illegal mining was also another area of concern in Gauteng, which Mawela said police were facing “head on”, leading to scores of arrests and confiscations of illegal mining tools.

“For the period under review, we have arrested a total of 9,393 undocumented persons, some of them linked to illegal mining. The DPCI has also arrested 89 suspects from their 40 high-level operations; the work is continuing,” he said.

While the province contributed 27.9% to the country’s overall crime stats for the first quarter of 2023/2024, Mawela said “we have not yet lost the fight against crime”. DM

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