2007-09-12 : Reasons for high crime rate - study

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2007-09-12 : Reasons for high crime rate - study

Postby GOSA » Fri, 2007-09-21 09:13

http://www.iol.co.za/index.php?set_id=1 ... 835C806219

Reasons for high crime rate - study

September 12 2007 at 06:25AM

By Deon de Lange

Bad policy choices and the government's failure to deal ruthlessly
with criminals has fostered a culture of violent crime in South
Africa, says one of the country's leading crime researchers.

Institute for Security Studies (ISS) senior researcher Antony Altbeker
told members of the Cape Town press club on Tuesday that poor policy
decisions after 1994 had "degraded our ability to fight crime" and in
fact "helped to create the crime problem".

"Our failure to put enough people behind bars has allowed a (violent)
culture to take hold and in doing that, it has allowed crime to
explode in South Africa," he said.

Altbeker, who worked for then safety and security minister Sydney
Mufamadi between 1994 and 1998, said the wrong crime strategies were
chosen from the outset thanks in part to the "naive notion" that
prevention was better than cure and that the police could be employed
as "armed social workers".

Explaining why this happened, Altbeker pointed out that many of the
decision-makers at the time had suffered at the hands of the apartheid
police and had an "instinctive disliking for coercive law

Also, there was a realisation that policing needed to change from the
"repressive" methods of the past, but he suggested "the stick was bent
too far".

The fact that most of the post-apartheid police leadership rose
through the ranks of the uniformed branches of the police - as opposed
to the detective branches - further contributed to the reduced focus
on combating crime, he alleges.

Altbeker counts himself among those who believed at the time that a
focus on "crime prevention" would reduce the need for "crime
fighting", but concedes that this was a big mistake.

He points out that law enforcement literature at the beginning of the
1990s strongly advocated a new approach to law enforcement, but that
it is generally recognised today that "policing is not good at
preventing crime".

"We genuinely believed it would work - that it was the way of the
future," he said.

However, by allowing more criminals to remain on the streets this
culture of violence rubbed off on others and expanded exponentially,
Altbeker said.

"These policy choices have allowed a culture of violence to take root
more than would have been the case if we had been more ruthless with
our criminals," he said.

Safety and security spokesperson Trevor Bloem declined to comment on
these remarks last night, saying he did not want to make "off the
cuff" comments on such a serious issue without having had "sufficient
time" to familiarise himself with Altbeker's theories.

On what motivated safety and security decision-makers to choose a
policy direction that focused on prevention, Bloem said he did not
want to comment on events that took place 10 years ago, long before he
joined the department.

Bloem pointed out that - for the same reasons - he had declined an
invitation to participate in a debate with Altbeker and others on
radio this morning.

Altbeker raised many eyebrows yesterday when he further suggested
South Africa would need to double its prison population over the next
10 years in order to get on top of the crime wave.

He pointed out that, since 1994, the prison population in the United
Kingdom had grown by 85 percent, while in South Africa this figure was
only 25 percent. The National Assembly's correctional services
committee chairman, Dennis Bloem, said last night he agreed that
violent criminals should be in prison.

However, he said, most prisoners sitting behind bars in South Africa
today were there for "stealing shoes" and not for committing violent

"Prison was never meant for petty criminals, but I agree that we need
to put dangerous criminals behind bars," he said.

On whether there had been sufficient focus on "crime fighting" over
the past decade, Bloem said he was convinced the police were doing
their best, but that success in the battle against crime could not be
achieved overnight.

o This article was originally published on page 1 of The Mercury on September 12, 2007
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