Sunday, September 21, 2008

Criminals hit softer targets

Remember the analogy I made of the crime situation being like a balloon? You squeeze the balloon and it bulges elsewhere but the size of the balloon remains the same? The article below underlines the problem. As police toughen up in one area, the criminals move into other areas and targets.

The war on crime can only be tackled if we remove criminals from the streets. Police work can only be effective if the judicial system is working at full throttle. The revolving door policy of magistrates letting people with 150 charges out on bail of R400 (US$50) ensures the problem is never resolved, just delayed.

Don't expect the ANC to be capable of solving it. Until recently it even denied there was a crime problem and after finally conceding then came up with measures akin to basically shifting the chairs around on the Titanic.

On the issue of crime the solution is clear. It is a national crisis therefore requires a national approach.

We need a government/department of national unity to tackle crime together employing the best minds and people. We need fresh ideas, not based on ideology but on pragmatic realism. We need to take measured steps and deal with the problem - as a nation. Leaving this problem to a troupe of incompetents like the ANC will guarantee that the problem remains with us for a very long time.

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Western Cape police and a security expert have confirmed that crime in outlying rural areas and coastal towns is peaking due to a shift in targets and "geographical crime".

"If a certain crime receives a lot of attention criminals will change their modus operandi either by tweaking their crimes or moving to other areas," said Johan Burger of the Institute for Security Studies' crime and justice programme.

Citing an example, Burger said cash-in-transit heists had become a big problem last year but because police had focused on it, criminals then improvised their tactics, resulting in a spate of ATM bombings."It is common practice to move on to another crime or another area if targets are hardened."

The assertion follows the weekend murder of an 84-year-old woman in Hermanus, who was found lying in her home with a stab wound to her neck.

Lulu Hewitson's death is the latest in a spate of serious and violent crimes in what are generally regarded as sleepy towns.

These violent crimes have rocked formerly peaceful towns this year:

  • On August 31 police found the bodies of two men in George. Both had been stabbed to death.

  • On the weekend of August 24 four people were killed in one weekend in the Knysna area. Three teenagers were arrested in connection with the murders.

  • On August 13 police arrested two men for the double murder of a Kleinmond couple who were stabbed to death earlier that month.

    A Malmesbury police officer said they feared serious and violent crime was peaking in their areas following a cash-in-transit robbery about three weeks ago.

    "We are afraid it will come to us. The robbery was an eye-opener for us because we don't usually have that kind of crime," he said.

    Another officer from the Southern Cape municipality said criminals may be targeting the towns because they have fewer police officers and resources to call on compared with their city colleagues.

    Swartland mayor Anton Bredel agreed that the cash-in-transit robbery was a definite indication that serious and violent crime was on the increase, at least in the Swartland.

    "Obviously when police in the city clamp down on criminal activity, the thugs will move out to softer targets," he said.

    Bredel said they anticipated the crime spike five years ago.

    "We spoke to former (Community Safety) MEC Leonard Ramatlakane and told him that if they clamped down on gang activity, we would feel the backlash, because the gangs would move to us."

    According to police spokesperson Director Novela Potelwa: "We can't say for certain that there's an increase as we do not have statistics to back it up but crime is being displaced from the metro to the rural areas."
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