Police Minister Bheki Cele said almost 230 000 people have been arrested for contravening level 4 lockdown regulations.
At a press briefing on Friday, Cele said the number of arrests had doubled compared to level 5.
“When we were still on level 5, we had about 107 000 cases opened with 118 000 people charged for the contravention of the lockdown regulations. In just over a month, this number has more than doubled and is almost at 230 000,” said Cele.
Most people were arrested for crimes related to liquor, cigarettes, fraudulent permits and cross border travelling. The Western Cape, Kwa-Zulu Natal and Gauteng had the highest arrests, he said.
Cele warned that many people were using the lockdown to expand their illegal businesses.
“We know criminals are opportunistic, so organised crime syndicates have taken advantage of the lockdown, especially the ban on alcohol and cigarettes. They have expanded their trade in illicit and counterfeit alcohol and cigarettes,” said Cele.
The police and the SA National Defence Force had confiscated more than 2.6 million contraband from illegal businesses.
With the lockdown continuing, the illegal traders are prospering selling overpriced alcohol and cigarettes. However, Cele said that many were being busted by law enforcement agencies.
Read: Bheki Cele: ‘I wish alcohol ban could be extended beyond lockdown’
He said that many were also caught transporting drugs. He commended police in the Eastern Cape who confiscated drugs worth R4 million.
“Police in Eastern Cape on Wednesday confiscated drugs [Mandrax and dagga] worth about R4 million during a routine inspection at a health checkpoint outside Middelburg in the Eastern Cape,” he said.
According to Cele, domestic violence cases have decreased by 68,4% between last year and this year.
“If we compare the period from March 27 2019 to May 21 2019 with the lockdown period from March 27 to May 19 2020, there is a sharp decrease from 21 033 cases last year to 6 651 cases of domestic violence during the lockdown, giving us a percentage decrease of 68,4%,” Cele said.
Cele clarified that there was a difference between gender-based violence and domestic violence. He said that domestic violence includes assault, rape and murder by partners and gender-based violence includes all crimes against women.
We know criminals are opportunistic, so organised crime syndicates have taken advantage of the lockdown, especially the ban on alcohol and cigarettes. They have expanded their trade in illicit and counterfeit alcohol and cigarettes
“When we refer to gender-based violence, these would cover ALL crimes against women and children as well as the LGBTQI community. For instance, if a woman walking to the shops is mugged and robbed at gunpoint of her personal belongings by a random suspect, that incident is recorded as a crime against a woman and therefore falls under gender-based violence,” he said.
Cele urged neighbours of domestic violence victims, who are aware of abuse to alert the police and for victims to approach the courts for protection orders.
Referring to an incident in KwaZulu-Natal where seven young men were killed by unknown suspects, Cele was unhappy that such incidents were still occurring.
Despite these issues, Cele said that there had been a notable drop in the rate of crime since the national lockdown began in March. Some of the most notable declines were seen in “contact crimes”, which include domestic violence, robberies and hijackings.
“Although the lockdown figures for serious and violent crimes are still lower compared to last year, we have noted an increase in hijackings, especially if we compare the first two weeks of level 5 to the first two weeks of the level 4 lockdown. Most hijacking incidents were recorded in Gauteng followed by Western Cape, KwaZulu-Natal and Eastern Cape,” he said.