A survey about crime in South Africa, conducted by Statistics South Africa, reveals which crimes South Africans fear the most falling victim to.
The Victims of Crime Survey for 2014/2015 looked at home security in private households from all nine provinces in South Africa, and provides information about the dynamics (rather than the causes) of crime from the perspective of these households and victims of crime. As part of the survey, households and individuals were asked about violence in South Africa, which crimes they believe are the most common, and which crimes they are most afraid of becoming victims of in the country.
Looking at the crime data released by the SAPS in September 2015 for the reporting period 1 April 2014 to 31 March 2015, the most common reported crime in the country – excluding drug-related crime – is house robbery and burglary at residential premises, which saw just under 254,000 cases opened in 2014/15. The survey data shows that South Africans at large are apparently well aware of this, as most citizens accurately perceived this to be the most common crime in South Africa.
More than six in every 10 households (65.9%) perceived the most common crime to be housebreaking/burglary, followed by house robbery (42.7%), street robbery (42.1%) and pick-pocketing or bag-snatching (26.0%).
When it comes to crimes most feared, however, things look slightly different.
While housebreaking/burglary and home robbery (ie robbery when the occupants are at home) and street robbery were perceived to be the most feared crimes, the actual fear of murder and sexual assault also feature highly.
1 Housebreaking / Burglary 63.6%
2 Home Robbery 49.8%
3 Street Robbery 43.2%
4 Murder 37.6%
5 Sexual Assault 30.7%
6 Pick-pocketing / Bag-snatching 26.4%
7 Assault 25.0%
8 Business Robbery 17.5%
9 Vehicle Hijacking 16.8%
10 Livestock / Poultry Theft 16.5%
Source: Statistics South Africa
The official SAPS crime statistics in South Africa for the period 2014/15 shows that the listed most feared crimes are indeed a huge concern. It is important to look at the crime rate in South Africa over a longer period of time. Often one tends to compare the current crime stats with the previous year and when there is a decline in a specific category, one gets excited and sees it as an improvement.
There are many factors that one must take into consideration when evaluating crime statistics, which includes the economic climate, social issues in South Africa, unemployment, political climate, social cohesion and the ability of law enforcement agencies and the judicial system to deal with crime in South Africa.
Conviction success rates are a contentious issue and various analysts and publications reporting on conviction rates use different methods to calculate success. The National Prosecuting Authority defines a conviction rate as the percentage of cases finalised with a guilty verdict divided by the number of cases finalised with a verdict (Researched by Julian Rademeyer and first published by Africa Check on 12 April 2013).
Some argue that the total guilty convictions should be divided by the total number of cases reported to the police or divided by the number of cases placed before the NPA for decision. When applying these three different equations there is a huge difference in “successful conviction rates”.
To produce a report on crime statistics in South Africa is like travelling a pothole-ridden road. It is sometimes seen as the clash of the intellectuals as ever more views from experts, commentators and the media run up against each other.
Crime statistics are seen as the “official figures” whereby the government and society are measured. It gives us an indication of the social evil we face and about the ability of the government and public services to contain it and the causes of crime in South Africa.
For this reason there is no magic formula and it is a given that crime statistics are based on cases reported and cases registered as a result of police action.
Crimes committed but not reported or detected are obviously not included and there are varied opinions on what that figure might be. Government, civil society and the public at large make decisions based on “accurate” crime stats which have a huge impact at various levels. They impact on broader government and social policy, to decisions we make as individuals on where we live, home security, to where we go out, safety measures at home or where we allow our children to play.
In South Africa official crime statistics are categorised as:
Contact crimes (crimes against the person)
- Sexual offences
- Attempted murder
- Assault with the intent to inflict grievous bodily harm
- Common assault
- Common Robbery
- Robbery with aggravating circumstances
- Malicious damage to property
- Property-related crimes
- Burglary at non-residential premises
- Burglary at residential premises
- Theft of motor vehicle and motorcycle
- Theft out of or from motor vehicle
- Stock theft
Crimes detected as a result of police action
- Illegal possession of firearms and ammunition
- Drug-related crime
- Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs
- Sexual offences detected as a result of police action
Other serious crimes
- All theft not mentioned elsewhere
- Commercial crime
Subcategories of aggravated robbery
- Truck hijacking
- Robbery of cash in transit
- Bank Robbery
- Robbery at residential premises
- Robbery at non-residential premises
The following graphs illustrate the rates of crime in South Africa over the last ten reported crime stats periods, namely 2005/2006 to 2014/2015.
Focus on the Top 2 most feared crimes in South Africa
Though not surpassing the 2005/06 figure of 261,402 reported cases the figures are still alarmingly high with a ratio of 461 per 100,000 people for the period 2014/15 (2.94% decrease) and 695.11 burglaries per day.
An extremely alarming increase in home invasion while the occupants are at home of 99.36% since 2005/06, with a ratio of 36 per 100,000 people for the period 2014/15 and 55.56 robberies at residential premises per day.
A note about the author: Hein Crocker was a Lieutenant in the South African Police and has also spent a number of years in the security industry. He is currently the MD of SQAS-SA, a consulting and training service provider to the commercial fleet industry. Crocker has a passion for crime prevention and community service, and is also the chairman of Afriforum Oudtshoorn.
Thanks to Steve Pearce at Lock Latch for the kind permission to reprint this article