PEOPLE RISK IGNORED IN VICTIMS OF CRIME SURVEY

February 21, 2017

A frightening review of the Victims of Crime Survey (https://goo.gl/gw1h99) has made me realize that whilst many South Africans are aware of the high levels of violent crime and causes, there appears to be little awareness of the people risk in our country and the affect that this could have on individuals and our economy

Some of the main crimes associated with people risk are ID Theft, Bribery and Corruption and the perceptions of law enforcement, Human Trafficking as well as the actual people we deal with and their moral standings.

Identity theft is one of the fastest growing crimes in the world today, one that has given rise to hundreds of criminal syndicates who know exactly how to use your own personal information for their financial gain. This could include hacking into your bank accounts, running up thousands of rands in credit to your name, selling your identity to others, even faking your marriage to an illegal foreigner – and all this combined with access to your home address.

However – only 1.4% of people perceive this to be a common crime and only 7.1% fear ID theft.  The latest estimate is that ID theft is costing the economy over R1 billion per annum and the criminals are often considered to be ghosts and are seldom caught.

Tips for Avoiding Identity Theft:

  • Never throw away ATM receipts, credit statements, credit cards, or bank statements in a usable form.
  • Never give your credit card number over the telephone unless you make the call.
  • Reconcile your bank account monthly, and notify your bank of discrepancies immediately.
  • Keep a list of telephone numbers to call to report the loss or theft of your wallet, credit cards, etc.
  • Report suspected ID fraud to the SAFPS helpline: 0860 101 248 or Report suspected fraud to the SAFPS helpline: 0860 101 248
  • Review a copy of your credit report at least once each year. Notify the credit bureau in writing of any questionable entries and follow through until they are explained or removed.
  • If your identity has been assumed, ask the credit bureau to print a statement to that effect in your credit report.
  • If you know of anyone who receives mail from credit card companies or banks in the names of others, report it to local or federal law enforcement authorities.
  • To help you monitor activity on your profile, My Credit Check offers consumers a comprehensive alerts system that will automatically send a notification via email or SMS when any important changes on your credit report occur.

While we may protect our identity and take great care to physically protect our homes (51% of us) there is no mention of vetting people that work in our home, tutor children, transport families etc. Your home is physically protected but who do you give access to?

We know that most violence takes place between people who know each other or live in the same communities, and there is little the police can do about this until the crime has already been committed yet we continue to allow people we have not vetted in any way to take care of our children and elderly relations.

In January we saw many advertisements for tutors, transport and au pairs to take care of our most valuable assets and I wonder how much vetting was actually done on these people.

Vetting candidates can include services like criminal record checks, credit checks, verification of necessary qualifications; e.g. driver’s license and even integrity tests.  Interestingly 59.7% of people will welcome a former prisoner back into the community and 52.5% will offer them employment.  A full personality or integrity assessment could indicate whether the candidate is safe to take care of your children or home.

Another very real people risk is human trafficking and 80.7% believe that people are sucked into human trafficking via job offers and 48.8% believe social media is a another avenue for human trafficking syndicates.

Bribery and Corruption and the perceptions of law enforcement

Many South Africans believe that there is little regard for the law in this country

  • 41.6% believe that the police are corrupt
  • 47.6% are not satisfied with the courts
  • 43.6% believe the courts are too lenient on criminals
  • 77% believe that corruption has increased

But our perceptions of corruption are not only inclusive of our law enforcement. 35% of us believe bribes are paid to speed up processes in an organization and 16.4% believe that most bribes are paid to secure a job. And let’s not mention perceptions of government corruption. But what does this mean for us as a country when we perceive authority and our societal role models to be corrupt.

This brings us to the important question. Why do our people commit crime?

77.5% believe drugs is the major driving force behind crime. Others believe that it is the unemployment and poverty that fuels the crime but the average individual believes that drugs could give people the courage needed to commit crimes.

According to the Institute of Security Studies the murder rate is a key measure of violence in society and the increase in the murder rate in South Africa according to the 2015/16 police means we must rethink our approach to improving public safety, says Dr Chandré Gould, ISS researcher who investigates causes of extreme violence among South African men.

We have to start doing things differently: most importantly by intervening in the factors that contribute to the risk of violence. These include investing in at-risk youth; keeping children safe and supporting parents; and addressing the role of alcohol, guns and drugs. Much is being done, but greater attention must be given to interventions that are proven to reduce violent behaviour. For example, programmes that assist parents to deal with stress and nurture their children can be very effective in reducing aggression and other behavioural problems.

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