National crime stats disputed: Daily Dispatch

Release of figures leads to questions over missing cases

THE integrity of national police crime statistics released for the Eastern Cape yesterday was immediately questioned over changes to some of the numbers.

The rate of murders, sexual offences, armed robberies and home burglaries in many instances were found to have been lowered for the 2013-14 year, placing a question mark over the accuracy of the latest 2014-15 statistics.

Crime statistics are always released to show a comparison between years since police first clamped down on the release of the information in 2004, and ordered they should only be released once a year.

In one example, the latest statistics show that no carjackings were recorded in the Eastern Cape in the 2013-14 period whereas 769 were reported in the 2014-15 period.

However, the Dispatch is in possession of figures released last year which show that 775 cases of carjacking were reported.

In addition to the number discrepancies, no crime statistics were available for Idutywa, Bizana and Engcobo police stations. Instead each category of crime simply had N/A (not applicable) entered where the numbers were supposed to be.

Asked to explain why the numbers did not add up, national police spokesman Lieutenant-General Solomon Makgale said South Africa’s crime statistics were being altered as far back as 10 years.

Makgale said police statisticians were complying with new data integrity standards set down in a memorandum of understanding signed with StatsSA.

He said the goal was to have StatsSA declare the crime statistics to be as “official” as indices like the Consumer Price Index (CPI).

Makgale said the biggest cause of the alterations were cases which were registered but later withdrawn, such as “a farmer who comes to say his goats are stolen, but then finds them grazing elsewhere”.

The case was still recorded as a theft in the crime statistics, which was incorrect, he said.

Makgale said StatsSA had given the latest police statistics “official clearance”.

ANC MPL chairman of the portfolio committee on safety and liaison in the Bhisho Legislature, Michael Peter, also rubbished claims the statistics were cooked.

“These statistics are reliable. They are gathered on a weekly, monthly and yearly basis from the police stations which are under the control of the police commissioner,” Peter said.

But DA shadow safety and security MEC Bobby Stevenson demanded an independent audit of the Eastern Cape crime statistics after finding discrepancies between the latest figures and those released last year.

“We compared the 2013-14 SAPS crime statistics, published on 19 September last year with the figures that are published for the same year today.

“We kept hard copies of last year’s published figures. In many instances there are differences in figures which have been adjusted downwards. This raises a huge question mark around the credibility of these statistics.”

Stevenson said there were 12 less murders in 2013-14, down from 3 453 published on September 19 2014, to 3 441 published yesterday covering the same period. Other discrepancies included: ● 281 fewer sexual offences, marked down from 9 897 to 9 616;

● 42 fewer robberies with aggravating circumstances after the figure was pared down from 13 485 published on September 19 2014 to 13 443 published yesterday, and

● 107 home burglaries were wiped off the record reducing the number from 24 750 to 24 643.

Stevenson called on Eastern Cape police commissioner Celiwe Binta to come to the legislature and explain.

COPE and the Inkatha Freedom Party also disputed the national statistics.

IFP spokesman on Police Albert Mncwango said the statistics were “disconnected from the current crime reality we find ourselves in here in South Africa”.

The Congress of the People (COPE) was also sceptical about Police Minister Nathi Nhleko’s ability to reverse crime in South Africa‚ and said the latest crime statistics were “highly questionable”.

COPE spokesman Dennis Bloem said: “COPE is of the view that what we are told is only the tip of the iceberg. We remain a very violent society where nothing has fundamentally changed. Tomorrow remains as dangerous as today and yesterday.” — By ZWANGA MKHUTHU and MIKE LOEWE