This paper focuses on common theft and answers questions such as, what is the appropriate crime prevention strategy that could be used to address the offense? Who is it targeted at? Who will implement it? What are the advantages and disadvantages of this intervention in terms of achieving the desired outcomes? And lastly, how is the outcome evaluated or measured?
Common theft in Botswana is an offense punishable by section 264 read with section 271 of the penal code (Cap 08:01, 1964). Section 264 (Cap 08:01) provides the definition of stealing as “A person who fraudulently and without claim of right takes anything capable of being stolen, or fraudulently converts to the use of any person other than the general or special owner thereof, anything capable of being stolen, is said to steal that thing.” In addition, the person must have the intention to permanently deprive the owner of that particular thing of it”. Section 271 (Cap 08:01, 1964) confers the punishment for theft stating that “Any person who steals anything capable of being stolen is guilty of the offense termed theft, and is liable, unless owing to the circumstances of the theft or the nature of the thing stolen some other punishment is provided, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding three years”.
In the case of Moeti v The State (1998), the accused was charged with common theft however the judge acquitted the accused on the basis that the prosecution lacked sufficient elements that make up the offense of common theft. These elements are conferred by subsection 2 of section 264 of the Penal Code. It states that one is said to have fraudulently stolen if they do it with the following intents; “an intent permanently to deprive the general or special owner of the thing of it, an intent to use the thing as a pledge or security, an intent to part with it on a condition as to its return which the person taking or converting it may be unable to perform, an intent to deal with it in such a manner that it cannot be returned in the condition in which it was at the time of the taking or conversion, in the case of money, an intent to use it at the will of the person who takes or converts it, although he may intend afterward to repay the amount to the owner”. In a nutshell, the elements are that there should be men's rea. i.e. a guilty mind, there should be possession and there should be intent to deprive the owner of such ownership of the thing and it must be taken without claim of right. In the case of R v Turner (1971), “Turner took his car to a garage to have it repaired. After the repairs had been completed, the car was left on the road outside the garage and he (Turner) told the mechanic that he would return the following day to pay him and take the car. Instead, he came back later during the night and took the car using his spare key without paying for the repairs. Later he lied about the matter to the police saying that the car had been stolen. The car was recovered under his custody. He was convicted of theft of the car even though he was the real owner. By the time he took that car, it was not in his custody but was placed under the care of the garage owner (special owner). He had no claim of right over the car.”
In Mahlaje v State (High Court, Crim App 97 of 1983), an employee of the public service had instructed a laborer to load eight bags of sorghum into a lorry and the laborer did so. The lorry was intercepted by the officer in charge of the government establishment in question before it had left the premises, but the fact that it failed to get outside the establishment did not mean that there had been no taking. The court held; that although the sorghum was not moved from the compound, the fact that it was removed from the place where it was supposed to be without the consent of the authority constitutes taking. So he was convicted of theft. The cited cases demonstrate the elements of the offense of common theft.
The appropriate crime prevention strategy for common theft is Social crime prevention and it will target the community. The social crime prevention model purports to discover the root causes of crime and its’ focus is on the social and economic aspects and the motivated offender (Harper, 2015). According to Harper (2015) crime is a result of social ills e.g. ethnic heterogeneity or poor living standards. In relation to common theft, this is to say an individual may commit the offense towards the community because of social ills such as poor living standards as well as having people of diverse ethnicities in an area. The crime prevention measures of this strategy are usually community-based and these include improvement of the education standard of the community and community cohesion (Harper, 2015). This makes social crime prevention more efficient in the combat of common theft because it seeks to address the root cause of criminality via community-based developmental actions such as helping young people transition to working life and enrolling youth in school and helping them stay there (Harper, 2015). Thus, acquiring knowledge of the consequences of common theft could have a deterrent effect on them.
Crime statistics play an important role for criminologists and consultants of the Botswana Police service and according to the Crime Statistics of Botswana (2017), the country registered a total of 1384 males in the category of theft and related offenses. The age groups with the highest ratings of males to be registered are as follows; 30-34 which had a whopping 348, the second age group was 25-29 standing at 306 registered males and it was followed by 35-39 with a rating of 270 males registered. In the female category, the total number of theft and related offenses was 88. The highest categories were 30-34 standing at 28 and 25-29 with 13 females followed by 35-39 at 12 registered females. These crime statistics mean that the above-discussed crime prevention strategy should be modeled on the gender and age groups that have a high propensity for crime being males between the ages of 25-39 and less so for females. These statistics show that the common age group of 30-34 in both males and females share the highest ratings as compared to others as such this shall be the starting point in terms of age group in the implementation of the social crime prevention strategy. This could be overcome by encouraging residents through vocational training and employment (Harper, 2015). The essence is that one’s occupation and level of education determine their knowledge of most matters which could include common assault and why it should be prevented in the community.
This can will be implemented by the government of Botswana and non-governmental stakeholders because this approach seeks the specific involvement of the two organs as echoed by the following quote “social crime prevention implementation refers to a range that is implemented by communities, businesses, non-government organizations and all levels of government to target various social and environmental factors that increase the risk of crime, disorder, and victimization” ( Van Dijk & de Waard, 1991). “Social crime prevention is an interlocking series of interventions that enables people to lead lives where they do not have the inclination, motivation or need to offend against others, whether for expressive or acquisitive reasons” (Manana, 2015). The essence of the quoted text can only be achieved through governmental and non-governmental organizations' involvement. The police as members of the Criminal Justice System will also need to practice the Police-oriented policing approach which “stresses substance and effectiveness over process and style, it is predominantly evidence-based” (Goldstein, 1977). According to Goldstein (1977), the several purposes of this form of policing are; to prevent and control conduct that threatens life, to aid victims and protect those in danger of physical harm, to protect constitutional guarantees, to assist those who cannot care for themselves, to resolve the conflict between individuals, groups or citizens and their government, to identify problems which may escalate for individuals, the police or even the government and to create and maintain a feeling of security in the community. If this is followed then there could be effective implementation of the strategy so as to prevent common theft because the main mandate of the policing approach is to protect people while the other aspects of the Criminal Justice System such as courts focus on the offender thus tackling the offense from all possible angles as well as rejuvenating the community in an attempt to address the root cause of common theft because at times it could be just anger from those in poor living conditions towards those in the good living conditions.
The advantages of the social crime prevention strategy are that there is a partnership with other branches of the government as well as an improvement of the social fabric and cohesion in families (Manana, 2015). This is to say that whenever the strategy is implemented the benefits are very great and they have a positive impact on the community as it also leads to investments that are long-term in the community (Manana, 2015). An example is having Choppies retail branches or communally owned enterprises in locations that are ridden with cases of theft so that the unemployed in the area get opportunities to earn a living by working in the establishment. This changes their priorities and perspectives on life and once filled with the hope of a bright future, common theft cases could go down. At the same time, ethnic heterogeneity becomes less of a determining factor of crime and a threat to communal cohesion as the community becomes more economically homogenous. In addition, Manana (2015) posits that members of the community are involved in their development and decision-making. This means there are fewer chances of the community being exploited.
The disadvantages of this intervention are that there is usually inadequate political support (Manana, 2015). This is a conundrum in the sense that political leaders or candidates' election promises to the public are not fulfilled once they have been elected into office. According to Manana (2015), another limitation is that inadequate resources, given the rate of corruption in countries and shortage of funds in the stake-holding ministries make it difficult for them to bring this strategy to success.
The outcome will be evaluated by way of monitoring the use of the model and its social impact as well as its impact on law enforcement. Data will be gathered from the crime statistics and analyzed to show how successful the strategy has been. The evaluation will cover how it was implemented so as to judge if it is a plausible strategy to prevent common assault.
In conclusion, I submit that the use of a social crime prevention strategy is an effective strategy to adopt in order to tackle common theft as it seeks to address the root cause which at times could be one of the social factors discussed above.
- Goldstein, H. (1977). Policing a free society. Ballinger Publishing Co.
- Botswana, S. (2017). CRIME STATISTICS REPORT. Gaborone: Statistics Botswana.
- Harper, K. (2015). The social approach to crime prevention. Burlington Crime Community.
- (1983). Maharaj v States (High Court, Crim App 97). Botswana Law Reports.
- Manana, D. B. (2015). A STUDY ON APPROACHES TO IMPLEMENTING THE INTEGRATED SOCIAL CRIME PREVENTION STRATEGY IN SOUTH AFRICA. THE UNIVERSITY OF THE WITWATERSRAND.
- (1998). Moeti v The State BLR 55 (HC) . Botswana Law Reports.
- (1971). R v Turner (NO2)1 WLR 901. English Law reports.
- (1964). Theft Section 264 & section 271. In Penal Code Act Chapter 08:01. Government of Botswana.
- Van Dijk, J. J., & de Waard, J. (1991). A Two- Dimensional Typology of Crime Prevention. London: Boom Legal Publishers.