Report on crime and criminality

13 October 2018 | Vice-Chancellor Prof Mamokgethi Phakeng

Report to Council (October 2018) on the management of crime and criminality at UCT

Executive summary by the Vice-Chancellor

The safety of staff, students and visitors on the UCT campus on a daily basis is a critical priority. We should never compromise on this issue, despite the fact that it is a significant challenge being faced counrywide. Crime and criminality on the UCT campus remain a significant, complex and costly challenge.

Our Campus Protection Services (CPS) focus on four components, namely visible policing (patrolling, marked vehicles), surveillance (fencing, access control and CCTV cameras), education (workshops), and law enforcement. CPS staff also assist with the manning of road blocks on UCT properties and, when requested, escort staff and students, especially after dark.

The improvement districts in the communities surrounding campus play a significant role in combatting crime. There are three Community Improvement Districts that have direct relevance for the upper, middle, lower and medical campuses. These are Little Mowbray, Groote Schuur and Observatory improvement districts. They employ private security personnel who patrol the designated areas on a 24-hour basis and deal with public safety-related issues. Our relationships with them are well established and they make a significant impact.

Joint meetings are regularly held between the two South African Police Service station management teams (Rondebosch and Mowbray) and CPS to discuss issues related to crime and safety. In general, there is a good relationship between us and we are well supported by the stations.

The following should be noted (there are fuller details in the report):

  • Up until early 2018 there were a series of crime hot spots where members of the UCT community were being regularly mugged. The reported robberies in five hot-spot areas has declined significantly, which can most likely be attributed to more visible and strategic patrolling by the Groote Schuur Community Improvement District (GSCID) and CPS security personnel.
  • Over the period of 1 September 2017 to 31 August 2018 there has been an uptake in bicycle theft, as well as motor vehicle theft from university parking areas. There has also been a spate of reported kidnappings (four instances related to robbery), as well as a syndicate operating in the food court on upper campus. There have been successes in arresting some people involved in this.
  • Cases of assault declined gradually between 2010 and 2014, but escalated significantly between 2014 and 2016. This was primarily related to the student protests. Between 2016 and 2017 there was a 48% reduction in the number of reported cases of assault.
  • Theft from motor vehicles has escalated dramatically in recent years, from 20 cases in 2015 to 54 in 2017. Theft of bicycles has seen a 500% increase between 2016 and 2017, from five to 25 reported cases. Theft of motor vehicles has also been at elevated levels since 2014, increasing from six to 18 between 2014 and 2017 (300% increase). It is therefore entirely possible that syndicates focusing on theft from vehicles, bicycle theft and theft of vehicles have been active in and around UCT campuses.
  • In the Mowbray policing area, common robbery has been elevated over the past five years compared with the previous five-year period, with common robbery having increased by 28% between 2016/17 and 2017/18, from 60 cases to 77. Robbery with aggravated circumstances has increased by 15% and theft of motor vehicles by 10%.
  • Similar patterns are observable in relation to reported robbery and theft cases in the Rondebosch policing area, with noticeable increases in common robbery (27% increase), robbery with aggravating circumstances (28%) and theft of motor vehicles (30%) between 2016/17 and 2017/18.
  • There has been a general upward trajectory both in terms of reported on-campus and off-campus robberies since 2012, with the majority of robberies being reported in areas outside UCT properties.
  • The theft of laptops has increased considerably since 2010, from 30 cases in 2010 to 91 cases in 2015 (300% increase), but then declined to 69 laptop thefts in 2017.
  • Between 2010 and 2016 there was an upward trajectory of reported cases by members of the UCT community of theft and housebreaking, with total theft increasing by 82% from 186 cases in 2010 to 338 cases in 2016.

The critical challenges that we face include the openness of the campus, levels of inequality and poverty, antiquated CCTV equipment and infrastructure, a need for innovation and continuous strengthening of all aspects of crime prevention.

In summary, we need to recognise that we will have to continuallyy improve our ability to keep our campus safe. We trust that the appointment of the COO to oversee Campus Protection Services will also make a positive impact.

While UCT is a relatively safe campus, we will continually have to raise issues of crime and criminality in every manner possible, and play our part to combat the scourge in our society.

Professor Mamokgethi Phakeng

Read the full report.

Read more about campus safety.

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