’Plain still tops in crime

South Africa - Cape Town - 12 August 2019 - Heavily armed police keeping an eye on members of the public as the Minister of Police visited Mitchells Plain Town Centre. Police Minister Bheki Cele visited the Mitchell's Plain Base Camp to brief the media on progress made since the deployment of the army on 18 July 2019. The Minister also visited the Mitchells Plain Town Centre where he spoke to members of the public and some business owners. It's been several weeks since the army was deployed to gang hotspots across Cape Town. Picture: Henk Kruger/African News Agency (ANA)

Mitchell’s Plain has the 13th highest murder rate in South Africa and is number one in the country for drug-related crime, common assault, sexual assault, malicious damage to property and the illegal possession of guns and ammunition.

This is according to national crime statistics released last Thursday. They showed the country had 21 022 murders for the 2018/2019 financial year, 686 more than the previous year – an increase of 3.4%.

In the Western Cape, murders increased 6.6% from 3 729 cases last year to 3 974 this year with the top cause being gang-related.

The statistics track crimes nationwide from the beginning of April last year to the end of March this year.

According to stats for Mitchell’s Plain’s Eastridge police station, common assaults increased 5.5% from 1 574 to 1 661 cases; sexual assaults dropped 24%, from 87 to 66 cases; malicious damage to property cases went up 1.8% from 1 028 to 1 047 cases; contact-related crimes (a category that includes arson and malicious damage to property) increased 1.2% from 1055 to 1068 cases; illegal possession of firearms and ammunition decreased 12% from 275 to 243 cases; and drug-related crime dropped 29.5% from 4 940 to 3 475 cases.

Thestation’smurders climbed 5.7% from 140 to 148 cases.

Lentegeur police station has 32 more murders than it did last year, an increase of 84.2%. There were 38 murders last year and 70 this year.

Attempted murders increased by 85.7% from 56 to 104 cases.

Robbery with aggravating circumstances jumped 14.2%, from 402 cases to 459.

Carjackings went up 10% from 60 to 66 cases.

Drug-related crimes dropped 26.4%, from 2 805 cases to 2 064.

In Strandfontein, murders more than doubled, from 4 to 10 cases. Sexual offences went from 17 to 20 cases. Drug-related crime is down from 349 to 220 cases, a 37% drop. Burglaries at homes dropped 38% from 205 to 128 cases.

Mitchell’s Plain station commander Brigadier Cass Goolam said drugs and gangs were never the area’s biggest challenges.

“The biggest challenge is the community’s attitudes. They have this dream there will be a policeman in front of every house. They expect other people to parent their children, including the police.”

There was a “great denial” in the community about the “scourge of drug abuse”, he said.

“It is always somebody else’s child and not their child.”

While it was announced this week that the army would stay deployed to Cape Flats gang hotspots until March next year, Brigadier Goolam said the real answer to gang violence lay in the community’s hands.

“The supply of manpower to gangs is allowed by parents. The issue of gangsterism should never be tolerated. It should be treated with the contempt it deserves.”

Mitchell’s Plain Community Police Forum chairman Abie Isaacs said partnership policing was key in the fight against crime.

“The community has a pivotal role to play by starting to identify the perpetrator, the drug runners, the shooters and the abusers.”

The departments of Education and Social Development were now on board with a truancy programme to ensure pupils were at school, off the streets and not joining a gang, he said. Other government departments needed to do their bit as well.

“Overcrowded houses, school drop-outs, unemployment and poverty were contributing factors toward crimes,” he said.

Lentegeur CPF chairman Byron de Villiers said being eighth on the country’s list for drug-related crime meant nothing if the problem was constantly ignored.

“SAPS are doing their best, but we still need more involvement from them. We won’t see much change if there is no collective approach from stakeholders,” he said. “The community is wanting change and we can build on that. We can’t do it by ourselves.”

Strandfontein station commander Captain David Malong said that while overall crime in the area had dropped markedly, the spike in murders was “unfortunate”.

“The contact crime increased by seven cases which are gang-related. The sexual offences increased by three cases. Sometimes these cases happen in the homes with victims and perpetrators known to each other.”

He added: “We must strengthen our community structures and be more specific about informing the community about crime, and building a relationship with the public.”