A diversion from the usual fare: crime in South Africa

Ho hum ho hum… Yes another rant about crime in South Africa.

Apologies in advance. If you are bored by this hackneyed theme please feel free to move on, nothing to see here folks.

First off, no I am not your ‘typical’ gatvol (translation: pissed off, fed up and angry) South African. I do not think that life in South Africa is all bad and I do not live in fear. I get out, we live our lives and we are active in our community. My kids ride their bikes down the street, we picnic in the park etc. So yes a fairly normal life. Sure we have armed response security with an electric fence and yes we are careful where we go and how we plan our routes. This is all true of many people in many parts of the world. There is no crime free paradise (as far as I am aware). We, as a family, do not let criminals dictate to us how we will live our lives.

Having said that I do acknowledge that there is more crime in South Africa and that this crime is often more violent than it is in other parts of the world. It seems that our police are hard pressed to deal with criminal activity and that our prosecutors are often seemingly unable to secure convictions in even relatively straight forward cases. On the surface it would seem that we are confronted by a super class of criminal masterminds who are able to outwit the criminal justice system at every turn.

In the last few days I have seen three YouTube videos that show just how untrue this assessment is and just how incompetent many of the criminals in SA are. I acknowledge that these videos are hardly statistically representative of the overall crime situation, but I do think that they provide a nice narrative that may be indicative of some trends.

In one video subsequently removed from YouTube,  you see car hijackers being chased by police in cars and a helicopter overhead. The criminals take flight and drive right past a major police station and are apprehended on the corner of said police station after crashing into a traffic light.

This video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WDCrp5wjr1s shows muggers mugging a television crew on live national television. They seem to act with the fore knowledge of impunity.

Meanwhile this video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Omy44IPS-8Y shows a crew of clearly amateurish and or incompetent house breakers trying to gain access to a home. They clearly lack the skills to complete the task, they also seem to think they will not be caught as they attack the front of the building and do not take precautions to hide from sight or indeed to hide their identities.

Given the low caliber of criminal intellect on display, why is it so hard for the police to arrest them? Why is it so hard for the prosecutors to get successful convictions? Clearly these are not criminal masterminds at work. Is it that the criminal justice system is simply overrun? Is it institutional and individual incompetence? Or something more sinister? Are our police that corrupt or morally bankrupt that they simply no longer care?

Surely if we just employed a few thousand more police and trained those that we already have we would reduce unemployment (immediately having an effect on crime), improve success rates and fight crime more effectively? If we restored pride to the criminal justice system would we see a more effective police force and prosecuting authority?

It seems to me that this is a problem that can in fact be solved, but it requires political will, a cultural shift and a willingness to tackle the challenges at the core of society.

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