PLETTENBERG BAY NEWS - While Plettenberg Bay police have made major inroads in the fight against crime over the past year, with incidents down in most crimes, rape has almost doubled.
"This is a big concern for us," said Plettenberg Bay station commander Colonel Nolan Michaels this week.
During the previous financial year there were 24 reported rapes, while there were 46 during the 2017/18 period. Sexual assault decreased with one incident from 19 to 18 while there were no other sexual offences reported.
This 91.67% increase in rape is in stark contrast to the national statistics, which revealed only a 0.5% increase in this sexual crime.
Michaels explained that they, along with other role players, have been working hard to create a suitable environment for victims to come forward and report sexual offences. This includes a welcoming and professional victim support centre and various community outreach programmes.
"This could have had an effect on the increase in numbers – that more people now feel comfortable to speak out – but we are looking at this as an increase in incidents, not just reports," Michaels said.
He added that they would be increasing their focus on not only preventing sexual offences but also ensuring that those responsible are brought to book. One of the police's prevention tools includes programmes involving "target hardening", where youngsters are taught to protect themselves against sexual predators.
Various social ills contribute to sexual offences and other crimes, Michaels said. These issues include alcohol and drug abuse and are described by Michaels as "crime generators". Michaels said that police are accordingly increasing their fight against these social ills.
The station commander believes these were also contributing factors in the rise in cases of assault with the intent to do grievous bodily harm, which increased from 194 incidents to 230 over the year.
In the fight against other crimes, Plettenberg Bay authorities have excelled, with contact crimes down by 1.24%.
Contact crimes down
According to local statistics, there were eight murders in Plett compared to the previous year's nine. Nationally the picture is much different with an increase of just under 7%.
"Although this is a small decrease, we must just add that in all eight incidents there were arrests," Michaels said, citing the example of a fatal stabbing in Qolweni. The suspect was arrested and sentenced to life behind bars within the financial year.
"This shows that we have all the structures in place to ensure the justice system works swiftly and effectively. Our goal is to not only prevent these horrible crimes from taking place, but when they do, to have them finalised swiftly."
Common assault is significantly down from 252 incidents to 203 and so is robbery with aggravating circumstances, which decreased from 89 incidents to 80.
Residential burglaries also decreased from 493 incidents to 363 – a 26.37% reduction.
Michaels said another focus area for police is school safety. "There are many challenges and we are trying our best to ensure safety at schools."
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