Factors impacting on the criminal investigation process in Cape Town, South Africa
Prinsloo, Megan Renay
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The World Health Organization (WHO) considers violence to be a global public health problem. It is estimated that 1.6 million people worldwide lost their lives to violence in 2000. This translates to a global rate of 28.8 deaths per 100 000 population. The end of Apartheid in South Africa in 1994 brought about various economic, social and political transitions within the country, resulting in rapid urbanization, increasing unemployment and deepening inequalities. Consequently, these conditions also brought about increased incidences of crime and violence. The South African Police Service (SAPS) recorded approximately 2.58 million crimes in 2000. The SAPS faced many challenges in transforming the eleven South African Police Forces to a combined South African Police Service in 1994. Literature has indicated that while serious crimes increased, the chances of an offender being caught and punished declined between 1994 and 2000. During the 2002-2003 financial year the SAPS recorded a national homicide rate of 47.4 per 100 000 population. The Western Cape and Limpopo province had the highest and lowest provincial homicide rate of 84.8 and 12.1 per 100 000 population respectively. Other studies indicated that city-specific homicide rates for Cape Town increased from 84 to 88 per 100 000 population between 1999 and 2001. A pilot study conducted in Cape Town during 2003 to determine victim-perpetrator relationships and motives for homicide that occurred in 1999 was hampered by difficulties in tracing police dockets, inconsistencies in data capturing, and the absence of perpetrator information due to some court cases not being finalized. It was therefore decided to conduct a qualitative, descriptive, comparative study between two police stations in Cape Town. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with police officers at different ranks to document the procedures and route of reported crimes and to explore the factors impacting on the criminal investigation process. The interviews were audio-recorded, transcribed and analysed using thematic content analysis. The interviews provided an insight to the contextual environment and the attitudes of police officers regarding the transformation of the SAPS, and identified the factors impacting on the criminal investigation process at the two selected police stations. Issues discussed are discipline, restructuring and motivational factors regarding the transformation process, as well as training courses, the court impact and the relationship between the detectives and prosecutors. The main constraints identified at both police stations were human resources, training courses and vehicles. Social support and community factors are also discussed. The interviews with police officers revealed that there are various issues of management at national and provincial level that need to be addressed, such as detective recruitment standards, training courses and the management of different crime types to reduce the workload of detectives. The need for closer collaboration with the courts to avoid the misplacement of dockets and to minimise delays in the finalisation of court cases was also identified. Previous studies have also identified blockages within the South African criminal justice system and it is hoped that this study could highlight those issues that still need to be addressed.