Why South Africa is losing gun crime war
The recent African National Congress policy conference didn’t meet the expectations of many. One of those issues not fully addressed were how to deal with outlawed gun gangs. In my view, some meaningful analysis of the effectiveness and justification for the unprecedented measures is possible. On the statistics and anecdotes that have emerged, it appears likely there will be no smoking gun to indicate success at the end of this campaign. Not even the efforts to rid Africa’s busiest airport, Oliver Tambo airport of criminals will be easy to handle. There will be no major evidence that gun gangs are the epicentre of organised crime in South Africa. Yes, they play a part, but not an overwhelming one. Data shows rouge enforcement officers are mainly to blame.Latest figures released show the effectiveness of the policing response. Impressive number of arrests and charges were given to the media and even shared to public during the recently held ANC conference.But of the charges, only 2% were considered as organised gun crime type charges such as drug trafficking and extortion.Even more interesting is the proportion of overall crime statistics these figures account for in that period. In all offences reported in 2016, gun criminals accounted for only a third of offences.Given the over-policing of gun criminals, one could also reasonably expect that these figures would be inflated to some degree. The figures rest on all the offenders being conveniently termed participants of a gun criminal organisation. The police will not supply figures for the actual arrests of members nor the grey and fuzzy associate arrests instead grouping them into a homogeneous category.If we were to consider just members, I suspect the arrest and charge figures would be drastically reduced.The offences laid against gun criminals account for just 2.7% of total drug supply offences in South Africa. For trafficking in dangerous drugs they account for 9% of offences. For production of dangerous drugs they accounted for only 2.2% of total offenses.Production by South Africa drug laboratories has been exploding for the last few years, yet we never heard that the gun criminals were the criminal masterminds behind it. South African Crime data indicates that from 2010 to 2016, South Africa drug laboratory production increased 31%, and Johannesburg labs accounted for 51% of the national increase in this same period.
Police reports have indicated that labs has been located in the last two years in Gauteng region. Unfortunately, the public were not told how many of these busts resulted in the arrest.Included in the latest update was a short note that offenders had been charged under gun crime laws. These laws provide for mandatory prison sentences for gang members for a wide range of charges.Of those arrested, only 2% of offenders were charged under the laws. This is despite the authorities saying that all people arrested were participants in gun gangs.The explanation is simple. First, the vast majority of offences involved were of such a minor nature that they are not covered by the gun crime laws. Second, the people arrested were acting as individuals and they did not commit their offences as part of some criminal conspiracy for the benefit of the organisation.It is easy to claim someone is a participant in arrest figures. It is not so easy to do this when subject to the scrutiny of the criminal courts, where actual evidence is required to be proven to requisite standards. In a number of cases that are in public domain, claims of gun gang membership evaporated when the courts required proof.Claims have also been made that gun gangs are responsible for over half of organised crime profits in South Africa around USD$2 billion. In all the reports, your blogger has not seen any credible evidence or methodology to support this.A search of the crime statistics agency under the South Africa Police, however, I fonds no such data.The public therefore have the right to ask if the police would be better employed actually targeting criminal enterprise. Police have finite resources, and as discussed earlier, there are plenty of criminals to be caught other than the gun gangs. Gun gangs undoubtedly commit crime in South Africa. Unfortunately, in this current climate of political upheavals in Africa’s most developed economy, if you attempt to explain why the current approach is wrong you are simply labelled a gang supporter. For most people nothing is further from the truth.The crime committed by gun gangs would be better combated by using crime management techniques that target actual crime rather than the current set of laws, which merely target the person and to a large extent miss the criminal activity. The results are always negative. A change in investigative and policing strategy in South Africa is needed, otherwise the daily murders will continue unabated.