Getting the crime in the quietest city in the world


There is a ritual on the night shift at the paper.
The night reporter has to do crime calls. What it means is phoning police spokespeople across the city of Johannesburg and asking them if anything is happening in their area.  A stupid question to ask in Johannesburg, you might think.

Hillbrow Tower in Johannesburg, South Africa

Johannesburg by night (Image via Wikipedia)

Isn’t this the murder capital of the world? Hijackings galore, kids zoomed up on cocktails of drugs and heading for your living room.  Shouldn’t the police laugh when you ask that question? “Sonny, you want to know what is happening in my area,” Mr police spokesman, might answer. “Well, is four murders enough for you? How about three rapes? Oh and we have one serial killer on the prowl. And, guess what Sonny, that is just what we have, inside the police station.”
But it is not like that. 
A strange thing happens when I call these men and women in blue. “Agg it is all quiet,” is the stock response. It is all the same as you move down the list of cop names and contact numbers.
You phone Hillbrow police station where down the road residents throw fridges, and sometimes their neighbours, out of high rises. 
“Nothing has been reported as yet.”
Alexandra police station, that looks after Alexandra township, better known as the Dark City  a haven for criminals and where there are so many illegal firearms per capita, that statistically the toddlers are packing.
“It has been quiet for a long time now.”
Sometimes you reach a spokesperson and they appear to be sitting in a night club. “You will have to speak up. Oh it is all quiet.”
Sometimes you can only imagine what they are up too. I always pictured one officer practising his ballroom dancing with his wife, when he answers the crime check call.  “Halloooo,” he’d say  moving his large self to the rhythm of the Cha cha beat and nimbly negotiating the space between the sofa and the dining room table. “There is nothing that I know of,” the officer says.
In my mind”s eye I see his wife’s crimplene dress flair as he gives her a quick twirl.
 “Aag Joburg is quiet tonight, it has been like that the whole week.”

About Shaun Smillie

Journalist, with a love of bones, fossils and other things dug up. Fisherman and occasional beer maker.
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5 Responses to Getting the crime in the quietest city in the world

  1. wordwarriorblog says:

    hahaha shaun too funny and too true

  2. Garfield says:

    lol, when was Johannesburg the murder capital of the world?? This seems to be a South African thing, repeat “we are the murder capital of the world” over and over no matter how many deaths are occuring in other cities and countries around the world.

    28 murders per 100,000 for the Jo’burg greater metropolitan area (Jo’burg/East and West Rands/Soweto) isn’t murder capital of the world material. Have you not heard of Jurez, San Pedro Sula, Caracas etc.? You’re a strange lot you have to admit.

  3. Garfield says:

    lol, when was Jo’burg murder capital of the world?? Maybe you should live in Caracas or San Pedro Sula for a while.

    • You are correct, Johannesburg is not the murder capital of the world, well not anymore. Back in the mid 90s South Africa had a murder rate of over 25000 a year. Some would argue this was a state of war.
      It has dropped since, it now rides at about 17000 a year. Still hell of a high, more people are murdered here than die in road accidents.
      My use of the term in the post is more tongue in cheek, I guess us Johannesburgers like using the term murder capital of the world. Sort of like New Yorkers who claim they live in a violent city that now has a homicide rate that is so low they have more of a chance of been killed by lightning than by a stranger.

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