I am the furthest from a conspiracy theorist you are likely to find, but our latest crime stats really had my mind wondering in that direction.
Last week, our Police Minister Bheki Cele released the crime stats for April, May and June, and at face-value, the numbers are alarming.
I nearly fell off my chair when I saw that murders have increased by 66%, sexual offences jumped by a soul-crushing 74%, car hijacking by a staggering 92.2%, while cash-van robberies were up by a mind-minding 142%.
How can this be?
These numbers belong to lawless anarchies.
It’s like every single police officer was off-duty for 12 months, while the rest of us were living a real-life version of The Purge.
The minister attempted to ease our fears by explaining that the stats were skewed because we are not comparing apples with apples.
In other words, we are comparing the numbers to the previous three months, when we were in a lockdown and all crimes were lower.
So obviously the increases would appear ridiculously inflated once the lockdown has eased.
He explained that we should instead compare to the same period in 2019, when our crime was relatively normal, if I can put it that way.
And when you do that, then you get numbers that are a lot less shocking.
But wait, why am I still shocked, then?
I’ll tell you why.
Because comparing the second quarter murders in 2021 to 2019, the increase is nearly 7%, not 66%, as the chart shows.
Sexual offences are in reality up 5% (not the heart-stopping 74%), carjackings increased by 13.1% (not 92.2%) and the stats for cash-van robberies is 21.2% (not 142.1%).
So we should all be able to breathe a sigh of relief that things are not as lawless as they initially appear.
But I suspect this was a very clever ruse by the minister; like a sleight-of-hand magic trick.
Show us the high numbers first, so that the real numbers look a whole lot better than they actually are.
It’s the same technique that retailers use when they advertise a sale.
They show you that the item was R200 and now it is R100, so you believe you are saving R100.
But they don’t tell you that the cost of production is actually R25, so they still make a huge profit, just a little less huge than before.
Make no mistake, a 13% increase in car hijackings is still shocking.
It only feels less shocking when you put it next to 92.2%.
And 21.2% is a huge increase in any comparative stats so it’s definitely massive for cash-van heists.
Any increase in crime is worrisome, but we should not in the double digits.
And trying to trick South Africans with cheap retail psychology is a temporary eyeblind and should be beneath a minister.
The fact is, our crime issues require sustained urgent attention.
The social issues that result in the crimes require urgent sustained attention.
We deserve to live in a society where looking over our shoulder constantly isn’t normalised.
Lockdown or no lockdown.