Not surprisingly the hard Lockdown instituted in March had a positive impact on crime in the Atlantic Seaboard area. With many people working from home and significant restrictions on being outside the opportunity for opportunist crime has been greatly reduced.
While official figures are not available, it appears that the reduction in crime in the area is in line with the up to 80% reduction in serious crime that has been observed in other areas. This is good news for residents of the Atlantic Seaboard.
What will happen when we transition from the current Level 4 restrictions to Level 3 and beyond is not known. It will depend on number of factors that could lead to a significant increase in crime. These factors include what happens to the homeless who were removed during Lockdown, the rise in unemployment due to Lockdown and the release of prisoners to alleviate crowding in our prisons.
Original Piece from the May 2020 Newsletter:
The lockdown has had a positive impact on crime in South Africa, and although there have been some persistent trouble spots (Main Road from Upper Portswood Road to Wessels Road for example,) we can assume that it had a similar effect in Green Point.
Minister of Police Bheki Cele announced that the most serious crimes (murder, rape, assault with grievous bodily harm, carjacking and business and residential robbery) decreased by between 71% and 85% nationally compared to the same period last year. Similarly, between the period March 27 and April 15 only 35 incidents of crime were reported in Cape Town’s CBD, compared with 151 incidents during the same period last year, a 77% reduction.
We have seen similar reports from other areas; Stellenbosch Watch, a non-profit community patrol company, has reported that where they were responding to an average of 15 incidents a day before the lockdown, they are only getting a couple of calls a day after lockdown. CAP Security in Gauteng has also reported seeing similar reductions in the incidents of crime being reported during lockdown.
The GPNW have reached out to SAPS, Avenue Response and ADT to find out what they have observed here in Green Point as far as reported incidents are concerned, but regrettably none of them have responded. Other local security sources have confirmed that there has been a significant decline in crime in the area but did not want to provide numbers.
We believe that there are several reasons for this decline:
- Potential victims are not moving about as frequently, making sourcing of targets by criminals more difficult.
- Homes are occupied most of the day, reducing opportunistic theft from residences because of an increased risk of detection – this is especially true of homes with younger children moving about from room to room.
- Low traffic volumes, both vehicle traffic which allows security companies and SAPS to respond quicker to suspicious traffic, and pedestrians traffic which makes it easier to spot suspects on the street.
- There are likely fewer transients roaming around the community looking for homes or cars to target – note we ARE aware that there are still transients in the area but we do believe there are fewer than pre-lockdown.
As we transition from Level 5 to Level 4, we expect that crime will continue to be lower than normal, but for how long this will depend on a number of factors:
- What will happen with the homeless? Approximately 200 homeless people have been removed from Green Point and Sea Point and taken to the Strandfontein shelter. Unfortunately, there has been an influx of street people who appear to be new to the area; many of them are camped out on Granger Boulevard near the traffic circle.They do appear to be a more aggressive lot compared to most of the street people we were used to seeing in the area. This may have more due to their appearances after 5 weeks of lockdown than with their actual behaviour, but we advise all residents to exercise caution when they are around.
The bigger question is what will happen to the homeless that were removed from the area? The City has successfully reunited 140 of the 2,500 homeless in Strandfontein with their families, and a further 780 do not want to leave the Strandfontein facility. Hopefully they can also, over time, be reintegrated into society. Approximately 1,600 of the homeless have, however, left Strandfontein and some number of these will probably return to the Atlantic Seaboard.
This means that there is a good chance that we will end up with more homeless than before lockdown. Whether this will start happening during Level 4 or only once we reach Level 3 is not known. We do believe it is inevitable that the number of homeless will increase.
- What will happen to the economy and unemployment? The lockdown has had a devastating effect on most of the World’s economies, not least our own. It is probable that the South African economy will contract by 10-20% this year, that unemployment will increase dramatically, probably to 50% or more. This will inevitably lead to an increase in unemployed and underemployed individuals who will either end up homeless or will look for other means to survive.Some number of these people will inevitably resort to opportunistic crime, while some will gravitate towards crime as a primary source of income. We believe that the depth and length of the economic downturn will determine how many gravitate towards each of these groups. If the downturn is perceived as being reasonably short, then it is likely that most of the newly unemployed will turn to opportunistic crime to survive.
If the economic downturn is perceived as long term, then a larger number will likely turn to crime as their primary source of income.
- The level of curfew enforcement: It has been easier for SAPS to remove homeless people from the street, but this is hampered by a lack of places for them to be taken; the shelters are full and to the best of our knowledge the City of Cape Town is not in the process opening any further facilities to house the homeless. The Level 4 regulations have added clarity to whether people are allowed be out and about after dark; there is now a clearly defined curfew. If the police rigorously enforce the curfew, then there is reason to believe that crime will continue to stay low during Level 4.
- The release of prisoners: On Friday the Government announced that it will be releasing 19,000 “low-risk” inmates from jail. The prisoners will be released on parole rather than have their sentences remitted.It is difficult to speculate where any released inmates might end up; many will no doubt return to their home communities, but some might not feel it safe to do so and end up elsewhere. It is possible that some released prisoners could end up on the streets of the Atlantic Seaboard. If this were to happen, then there probably would be an increase in crime as a result.
Based on this we believe that crime will continue to remain below pre-lockdown levels for the first month or two post Level 5 and will then start increasing.
We expect to see an increase in theft out of motor vehicles, opportunistic burglaries, and street robberies at first, with a subsequent increase in theft of motor vehicles, planned burglaries and residential robberies. It is likely that theft and robberies will increase to levels higher than before the lockdown.
We urge residents to continue to be vigilant, to ensure that their homes are as secure as possible and to adopt behaviors and practices that will reduce the risk of their becoming a victim of crime.