Despite a general decline in crime across the country, white-collar crimes are on the increase at many policing districts in the city.
As Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa released crime statistics on Thursday, he also announced that white-collar crime had increased by 2.8 percent in the last financial year.
When this percentage is scrutinised at a local level, it reveals an increasingly upward trend in the number of commercial crimes reported around the city every year.
SAPS head of crime research, General Chris de Kock, said commercial crimes were hard to crack as they usually took place on the Internet.
Mthethwa also emphasised that they were fighting white-collar crime through the commercial crimes unit and were working with international counterparts to tackle it.
“As we mentioned during last year’s announcement, it is becoming evidently clear that this crime is not a unique South African phenomenon, but a global challenge.
“It is our enduring hope that as we partner with our international counterparts, we will be able to improve in dealing with this crime,” said Mthethwa.
He said obviously much more needed to be done as it was clear that cyber crimes were on the increase and that police had to be more equipped to deal with these.
The stats showed a significant increase in the number of ATM bombings, which Mthethwa attributed to the decrease in the number of bank robberies and cash heists.
“It is a displacement of crime, because the criminals have seen that they are losing the battle in heists and bank robberies so they have shifted to ATM bombings.
“The ATMs are usually soft targets, because they are sometimes in isolated and small places like garages, and this is where many police officers get killed, because when they respond to these bombing they find the criminals waiting for them,” said Mthethwa.
Areas like Mamelodi, Wierdabrug, Pretoria Moot and Atteridgeville have experienced dramatic increases in the rate of commercial crimes.
In Mamelodi, 111 cases of commercial crimes were reported, compared to the 76 that were reported in the crime statistics released last year.
Pretoria Moot reported 219 cases of white-collar crime, a significant increase from the 149 reported in the year 2009/2010. A total of 125 cases of commercial crimes have been reported in Atteridgeville, compared to 108 cases that were reported in the previous year.
But it was Wierdabrug which was more startling, with 788 cases reported, up from the 536 cases reported in 2009/2010 period.
Shandre Gould, senior researcher at the Institute for Security Studies’ crime and justice programme, said she found the increase in commercial crimes worrying.
“If we look at the fact that crimes like shoplifting have gone down, while commercial crimes have gone up, it is should be a cause for concern.
“A crime like shoplifting is associated with immediate social challenges like poverty, but white-collar crime is committed by people who have resources.
“These are the same people who sit around dinner tables and complain about a violent society we live in, yet they are involved in white-collar crime to enrich themselves,” said Gould.
She said though the general decrease in crime should be welcomed, there was a need to look deeper at the local police stations to identify problem areas.
SA Institute of Race Relations researcher, Kerwin Lebone, said one of the difficulties in dealing with commercial crimes was that many companies were not comfortable with making it public when it happened inside their companies.
“They prefer rather to institute internal proceedings to deal with it instead of making it public and reporting it to the police as they are afraid it will hurt the company’s image.
“That is why we probably do not know the full extent of commercial crimes in the country and it is a challenge for the police,” said Lebone.
He said one of the factors that might have contributed to the upsurge was the fact that we had recently come out of a recession and people might have felt they had to make ends meet, which might have increased the level of corruption. - Pretoria News
Sourced from IOL news