Police have arrested more than 70,000 people in the ongoing festive season anti-crime operations which have been intensified across South Africa on the eve of Christmas Day.
Police Minister Bheki Cele said all hands were on deck, after the police rolled out the SAPS festive season operational plan. The strategy was put in place on October 15, and is being tailored according to provincial crime patterns.
“Since October 15 to date, police have arrested over 75,000 suspects for various crimes. This includes 560 murder suspects; 604 suspects have been charged with attempted murder; 470 rape suspects have been taken off our streets; 6,700 assault with intent to cause grievous bodily harm suspects and almost five thousand alleged assaulters have been arrested for common assault,” said Cele.
He added that 408 suspects who tried to break into business properties have been arrested, while 561 people found in possession of firearms and ammunition were also behind bars.
“During this time, over 11,000 undocumented individuals have been arrested and efforts to deport them out of the country are underway,” said the minister.
“While it is appreciated that the festive season is a time for enjoyment and festivities, it remains very alarming that some motorists still choose to drink and drive. Police have arrested 4,488 drunk drivers since the 15th of October. Since the start of December, 2,500 people have been arrested for public drinking across the country.”
Police have also arrested 850 people for “being drunk and disorderly” in a public place.
“Police are acting hard on the abuse of liquor, which remains a core driver of crime, especially contact crimes. We are giving a stern warning to those who are stubbornly opting to trade liquor illegally; that their liquor establishment will be shut down and the liquor will be confiscated and they as owners of those establishments will be arrested,” said Cele.
To date, inspections at liquor outlets have resulted in 6,410 fines being issued for non-compliance.
“Just in the first 22 days of December, police have arrested 17,844 suspects for illegally trading in liquor. We continue to call on liquor traders to trade responsibly and liquor traders must be fully compliant. This is a non-negotiable,” said Cele.
“A further 13,244 suspects have been arrested by the police and charged with drug related crimes this festive season.
Cele said while crime levels are not at acceptable levels in South Africa, “what is clear is that the space for criminals to operate has been squeezed as a result of amplified police interventions”.
Highlighting some successes, Cele said in the last week the SAPS in Gauteng, together with the SANDF, have made inroads in tackling illegal mining and arrested more than 300 undocumented foreign nationals who are also suspected to be illegal miners.
“High calibre firearms, which include AK-47 rifles, were recovered. A substantial amount of tools used for illegal mining, including gas cylinders, generators, and explosives, were seized,” he said.
“Still in Gauteng, in Nomzamo Park in the south of Johannesburg, three Lesotho nationals believed to be illegal miners were arrested and three AK-47 rifles and ammunition were recovered.”
In the Western Cape, Cele said within days of committing a the crime, “a serial offender” was arrested for the murder of a CPF co-chairperson who was shot and killed at her home in Gugulethu.
“Last night, the SAPS in the Western Cape arrested suspects found in possession of illegal high caliber rifles during a roadblock on the N1,” he said.
In North West province, Cele said five suspects were arrested for the murder of nine people, and four high caliber firearms were recovered. At least 30 illegal immigrants were arrested during a police take-down.
“In the police service’s continued efforts to address the illicit market, SAPS in the Eastern Cape have recovered R8 million worth of counterfeit goods while Gauteng SAPS have removed R250,000 worth of counterfeit goods of the streets. These illicit goods include expired food items, toiletries electronics and tobacco products.
“It is on this score, that the public is cautioned against buying these illicit goods and any other stolen goods,” said Cele.
The minister highlighted that while the festive season is largely characterized by festivities and increased migration of people within the country and across borders, it is also a time where crime migrates from inland regions towards the coastal cities where there are higher population numbers.
Cele assured South Africans that this holiday period is anchored by high police visibility and the SAPS working closely with community policing structures to minimise crime.
“In closing, this Christmas eve, police are under instruction to continue to saturate the streets and prevent crime or act swiftly when crime has occurred. This will continue throughout the festive season and beyond. We are making a clarion call on all those in the country to remain extra vigilant of their surroundings and minimise the risk of falling victim to crime,” said Cele.
Police are also appealing to citizens to report any suspicious activities to law enforcement, and continue to work closely with the police against “the common enemy” – crime.