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SA ‘not doing enough to fight crime’

3rd December 2003

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Whatever South Africa is doing about fighting and preventing crime, it is not enough, University of Cape Town criminologist Prof Wilfried Scharf said yesterday.

"Despite what we all are doing, and despite all the work and innovation going into the fight against crime, it is not reducing the general trend," he told a conference on crime prevention in Cape Town.

"This is now almost ten years of trying and we are not succeeding".

Scharf said one could not ignore the macro-economic stimulators of crime.

The government's RDP and GEAR approaches had not produced the hoped-for results: the official unemployment rate was around 38% and in the youth sector it rose into the 80% zone.

One of his masters students doing interviews in Soweto last year came across a 14-year-old boy, registered at a private school at great cost to his single-parent mother.

But he was not at school when the interviewer found him, and justified this by arguing that none of the boys who passed matric were able to find jobs.

"All that he is going to do is hijack a car twice a month and that will give him five times the money that working people get a month," said Scharf.

"Given that the conviction rate for hijacking is in the region of 1,5%, that was his most practical way of coping with survival".

Scharf said one of the government's main failings had been to marginalise youth structures.

The National Youth Commission should be a vibrant, well-funded dynamic mobiliser of youth for constructive citizenship.

"Instead it's a sad caricature of wannabe politicians who are self-serving. This is a valuable opportunity lost and a bad error of judgement.

It will come to haunt us yet".

He also said the state had not yet had the will or the courage to take a serious look at the department of correctional services, with such an abysmal success rate that it was not prepared to measure or publicise its recidivism rates.

"Our prisons are simply warehouses devoid of meaningful programmes on scale, producing people who are likely to be worse when they emerge than when they went in.

"The DCS' allergy to research about its programmes and recidivism is counter-productive to the entire crime prevention initiative and it is the weakest link in the state crime prevention chain". – Sapa.
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