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Businesses are taking a hammering from criminals

| Crime and security

Businesses in SA are taking a hammering from criminals, with armed robberies and truck hijackings substantially up and burglaries slightly up, the annual crime statistics show.

In recent months shopping malls across the country have increasingly come into criminals’ crosshairs with cellphone and jewellery shops the targets of choice.

Police Minister Nathi Nhleko and national commissioner Riah Phiyega told the parliamentary portfolio committee on police on Tuesday that aggravated robberies — in which attacks occur during trading hours — were up by 3.2% in the 2014-15 reporting period.

Truck hijackings, in which the delivery of goods to businesses was the target, were up by a huge 29%. Burglaries at business premises, which occur out of trading hours, were up by 1.2%.

The Consumer Goods Council of SA said it remained concerned about the increase in crime at both individual and business level.

"It is clear there are syndicates operating across the retail supply chain and most of the incidents have targeted cash and high-value commodities such as jewellery, cellular phones, apparel and fast-moving consumer goods retailers," the council said.

"These incidents have typically been carried out with military-like precision by well-armed gangs.

"An additional matter of concern relates to the ongoing and increasing incidences of hijacking and theft of consignments of products, such as cigarette products destined for retailers," it said.

The South African Insurance Crime Bureau said the statistics highlighted key crime trends which had a direct effect on insurance claims costs and frequency.

"Although these figures may not be fully representative of the challenge in SA, they paint a picture of how crime shifts as a result of changing behaviours and improved technologies, as well as the cost implications that this has had, particularly on the insurance industry," the bureau said.

Most notably, it said, the data collected showed a decrease in vehicle theft of 13.8% from last year, resulting in payouts in excess of R900m. Seen next to an increase of 29% in vehicle hijackings, the decrease in vehicle theft could be viewed as a win for the country.

Garth de Klerk, the bureau’s CEO, said: "The decrease in vehicle theft directly affects the increase in hijackings as it is becoming more difficult to steal a vehicle, which leads to criminals resorting to more violent methods."

Trends supported by statistics indicated that house robberies similarly decreased by 12%, while business robberies increased by 24%, resulting in a combined claim value of R1.6bn, the bureau said.

Meanwhile, members of the portfolio committee on police on Tuesday queried the veracity of the crime statistics.

The MPs were given first bite at posing a range of questions to Gen Phiyega and Mr Nhleko.

African National Congress (ANC) MP Angelina Molebatsi noted that there had been an "outcry out there" about the reliability of the statistics. "Is the methodology used bringing the envisaged results?" she asked.

"You also spoke of the involvement of Statistics SA‚ which is appreciated‚ but my question is‚ are we going to see a situation in future where there will be an institution that compiles crime stats independently? How will the statistics be quality-controlled if Statistics SA does not have the responsibility for releasing them?" Ms Molebatsi asked.

ANC colleague Martha Mmola asked: "What efforts are made to ensure SAPS members capture the information correctly at the station level on the case system?"

Democratic Alliance MP Dianne Kohler Barnard said she was told during a recent oversight visit to the Free State that about 7‚000 dockets had been closed and archived during the previous month. "That came about because the detectives apparently had more than 400 dockets apiece on their desks," she said.

"So instead of bringing in more detectives‚ the decision was taken that national and provincial crews be sent in to close the dockets," Ms Kohler Barnard said.

"Are those dockets that have been shut now removed from the crime statistics?" she asked.

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