In the fight against crime, numbers play an important role in determining the way forward. Over the years, we have witnessed increases in certain types of serious and violent crimes and we have watched almost helplessly as detection rates have fallen way below acceptable benchmarks. Implementing crime-fighting measures and crime-reduction initiatives must be justified on the basis of the statistics, otherwise the public would not appreciate the need for the imposition of some of the more drastic anti-crime strategies, such as a state of emergency (SoE).
We all remember that the main reason advanced for the declaration of a SoE in August 2011 was the crime spree that had occurred the weekend immediately prior to that date, when 11 people were killed in just over 48 hours. The Government explained that the nation was under siege and it became necessary to bring the situation under control by imposing an SoE across the entire country and a curfew in limited areas.
All those committed to weeding out the criminals and “big fish” joined the chorus of supporters for the initiative. After the SoE was lifted and in my view, in order to avoid any embarrassment, the measure was described as “a success that saved the nation.” Many who optimistically relied on the promise that there would be the unearthing of criminals of “Dudus” proportions were left extremely disappointed.
All the shenanigans by the motor-mouthpiece of the Government who prides himself as their greatest trophy could not hide the reality that the SoE was a failure. And that conclusion is not based on a subjective assessment of the facts but an objective analysis of the numbers.
Although there was the boast that the murder toll for the month of October 2011 was the lowest in the past two decades, the figures showed that even with the commission of a smaller number of serious and violent crimes during the period of the SoE, there was no significant increase in the detection rates during that time, proving beyond all reasonable doubt that greater focus has to be placed on solving crimes and bringing in successful prosecutions.
Without the use of relevant numbers, it would be impossible to determine the strengths, weaknesses and deficiencies in the strategy being used to win the war against crime. And for those who believe that such an analysis should not be placed in the public domain or made the subject of public comment, then the question is: why should the citizenry be left out of the loop of crime statistics when law-abiding citizens are being encouraged to join the fight with the purchase of CCTV cameras and security equipment at a custom duty-and VAT-exempted price?
The fact is that no one expects that the crime scourge will be eradicated overnight because it is a problem that was allowed to fester for years. And the individuals and organisations charged with the responsibility of law enforcement would understandably be depressed when, for example, the crime statistics for the month of September show a detection rate of 12 per cent.
Of course, this is still better than the detection rate for the month of August, which was 11 per cent. But would we consider the increase of one per cent a victory or a matter worthy of celebration? Obviously not, because any detection rate that falls below 40 per cent is considered a dismal performance.
So while I applaud the statement of the Minister of Finance, who expressed his government’s goal to reduce violent crimes by 50 per cent within the next three years, some mention should have been made of the target set for the increase in detection rates.
To achieve the objective of improved detection rates, there must be greater resort to the use of scientific methods and undercover or sting operations to capture the drug lords and gang leaders. Further, priority must be given to the upgrade of the criminal justice system, because the courts must be able to deliver swift justice.
The judicial system has to cope with the volume of matters that come before it and funds must be provided for the acquisition of resources and the hiring of personnel to make the system operate at an optimum. There should have been a greater allocation to the Ministry of Justice, unless the budgeted allowance for 2012/2013 will be enough for the construction of the courts and expansion of facilities within the remit of this ministry.
Fighting crime and upgrading the administration of justice work hand in hand, a matter which I fear is lost on some members of this administration. And while the current discussion may revolve around figuring whether to release figures about crimes, especially murder, when the suppression of such information will lead to law-abiding citizens losing further trust and confidence in the system, I hope that there will be better use of the figures to determine the best methods to bring criminals to justice.