According to the latest crime statistics, business robberies increased by 7.5% in the 2011/12 financial year, most of these against small businesses.
The South African Police Service (SAPS) survey reported on all crime in South Africa between 1 April 2011 and the end of March 2012.
Unemployment a contributing factor
“Up until about three years ago business robberies increased by between 30% and 40%, then the rate of increase slowed to around 4% and then to 1% last year,” said Dr Johan Burger, crime and justice programme senior researcher at the Institute for Security Studies.
“The situation was stabilising and the 7.5% increase is worrying because it has picked up again in terms of its upward movement,” he said.
Burger believes that the adverse economic conditions locally and internationally may have contributed to the rise as unemployment worsened.
The problem would be most acute amongst the smaller businesses and in businesses operating in poorer communities. As such, entities would be less capable if security measures and cash flow management systems were implemented.
Various counter-measures planned
Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa said the police had finalised a strategy to combat and reduce robberies on small businesses, adding that the Civilian Secretariat of Police would be engaging with relevant parties in the coming weeks to ensure the policy is implemented.
Mthethwa said that operational analysis at police station level confirmed that police visibility at the right times, the right places and employing the right tactics, could decrease ‘trio crimes’ (the category of contact crimes under which business robberies fall) significantly, especially business robberies.
“The seriousness, with which government views crimes against small business, requires a comprehensive and holistic strategy to ensure that the phenomenon is addressed in all its dimensions,” said Mthethwa
“We need to implement a shared vision, a collective and integrated approach, business involvement and participation and improved crime-prevention.”
Multidimensional approach needed
Burger said that the strategy, officially dubbed the ‘Small Business Crime Combatting Strategy’, was a multidimensional approach to combating business robberies, of which one third was in the informal sector.
“It would involve, for instance, the police; the departments of Trade and Industry; Home Affairs and Justice, and Business Against Crime SA (BACSA),” he said.
BACSA CEO Simi Pillay-van Graan said that policing was not the key deterrent in fighting business robberies, but that the role fell to businesses owners, as it was mostly small businesses that were being affected.