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ISS drills into SA crime data like SAPS should

Adam Oxford
Adam Oxford

When I grow up I want to work for the Institute of Security Studies… This extremely in depth report on crime in Cape Town township Khayelitsha looks at how SAPS could be using data (but aren’t) to identify crime hotspots and allocate resources in such a way that would drastically reduce rates. It’s filled with incredible street level maps that show just how ludicrously concentrated South African crime can be.

In his very readable precis, Ian Edelstein cites examples of places like Trinidad and Tobago that have used this methodology to slash the violent crime rates by 50%. Fifty percent. FIFTY PERCENT. The full report is rigorous, methodical and thorough – in exactly the way that private security firms selling LPR cameras aren’t.

Yet even station-level figures mask critically important patterns of crime that can only be studied through accurate point-level crime data. This data records each crime by type, exact geographic location and exact date and time of the incident.

Internationally, spatial-temporal crime analysis has revealed crime hotspots and temporal patterns that have aided efforts to prevent and reduce crime. This is central to many evidence-based policing practices.

In Trinidad and Tobago, a country with a high level of violent crime, hotspot analysis enabled smarter police patrols and a 50% decrease in murders. The possibilities for data-driven policing (and interventions by those outside the police) to pinpoint and alter violent crime patterns in South Africa are genuine, if not a dire imperative.

Adam Oxford
  • Adam Oxford is a freelance journalist, media consultant and civic tech enthusiast. He also works closely with startups developing solutions to access to justice problems.

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