A Cop In Murder City

President Bush speaks about the Global War on Terror, during an address at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, Thursday, Feb. 15, 2007. (AP Photo/Ron Edmonds) AP Photo/Ron Edmonds

For police sergeant Edward Magalefa, each little pre-work ball game with his kids could be his last, reports CBS News Correspondent Mark Phillips

His one-year-old son Gkosi may not know why his father wears a bulletproof vest, or why his mother's prays that her husband survives another shift.

Magalefa is a cop with the Soweto Flying Squad just outside Johannesburg. With his partner Daniel Malaji he patrols the most dangerous urban real estate in the world.

Recently, on just another day at the office, the first murder of the night came on their way to work. The victim's dead hand lay next to his gun on the car seat. The man's watch was missing. He was apparently robbed and killed as he reached for his own weapon.

Minutes later, around the corner, there is an armed robbery attempt.

"He's not shot? He's alright," says one officer into his police radio. "He's lucky."

One has to be lucky to survive in Soweto. Police surveillance cameras provide a daily horror show of violent crime.

A man robs a car in traffic. A stolen car smashes into others. The armed car-jackers are pounced on by pursuing police. An argument on a street corner turns to murder. Soweto's hospital on any given night looks like a battlefield clinic.

The victims are "people between the age of 15 to 30 on the whole. It's very often the poor," said Antoinette Louw of the South African Institute for Security Studies.

The latest numbers show 130 murders per 100,000 people every year in the Johannesburg area — giving the city a dubious distinction.

"Our murder rate at the last count, which was in 1998, was the highest in the world and murder is the most reliable statistic," said Louw. "Most other violent crimes have rates generally higher than murder."

Harder than pinning down the numbers is addressing the causes of the crime: poverty and a history of violence during the years of white-dominated apartheid that the new political order hasn't resolved.

"It's not something you can police away," said Louw. "You can put people in prison. You can convict people. That's not anywhere in the world been proved to be a solution to interpersonal violence."

The police themselves are among the most at risk. A South African cop is 10 times more likely to be killed than his American counterpart. Each year they stand a one in 500 chance of being shot themselves. Those are not good odds.


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  • CBSNews.com staff CBSNews.com staff

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