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“A Concerted Effort to Make 48 Murders a Day Look Positive” – Rebecca Davis Unpacks Riah Phiyega’s Crime Stats

Best White and Other Anxious DelusionsRebecca Davis, journalist and author of Best White and Other Anxious Delusions, has written an article for the Daily Maverick about the recent presentation of crime statistics by Police Commissioner Riah Phiyega.

Davis writes that the way police officials presented the information is misleading. Phiyega, it seems to Davis, made a “concerted effort to make more than 48 murders per day look positive” and to make the dismal and down-heartening statistics appear anything other than dismal and disheartening.

Read the article:

There was a noticeable disconnect between the manner in which top police officials presented the country’s most recent crime statistics, and the impressions that strike you if you give the figures a long, hard, look. Despite the ‘glass half-full’ approach adopted by Police Commissioner Riah Phiyega, the reality is that most categories of crime are on the rise in most provinces.

Let’s start with one of the most misleading aspects of the way in which Police Commissioner Riah Phiyega presented South Africa’s crime statistics for the period between April 2014 and March 2015. Phiyega framed murder, for instance, as registering a percentage decrease of 4,6%. She accompanied it with a bar graph showing a lower level than the previous year.

If you are a reasonable person, you might assume this to mean that the murder rate has dropped by 4,6%. But it hasn’t. It has increased by 4,6%. What Phiyega was presenting was the fact that the crime increase of 4.6% is less than last year’s increase of 5%. What this obscures is that in real terms, there have been more murders than during the 2013 to 2014 period. There were 17,023 murders in 2013/2014, and there were 17,805 between 2014/2015.

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