15 December 2011

Statistics show rates of violent crime on the decline but crimes linked to financial gain skyrocket

Earlier this year, SAHA made a request to the South African Police Service (SAPS) under the Promotion of Access to Information Act for access to records relating to crime statistics. In response to the request SAPS directed SAHA to their website where the information is publically available. This proactive release of information by SAPS is to be applauded and will hopefully encourage other government departments to proactively release information to the public, rather than waiting until the public request the information.

The records indicate that the rates of violent crimes, such as murder and assault have decreased significantly since the 12 month period ending in April 2004. However, many crimes that bring financial gain to the perpetrator and those involving drugs and alcohol have increased significantly over the same period.

The number of reported murders over the period covered by the statistics has decreased by 15.1%. The rates of common assault and assault with the intent to inflict grievous bodily harm have seen even steeper declines, of 29.8% and 21.1%, respectively. The number of reported cases of arson and street robbery has also decreased substantially.

The number of reported sexual offences has risen by 3.4%. However, due to population growth in South Africa, the rate of sexual crime per capita has decreased by just under 3%. Other crimes that witnessed decreases include car theft, theft of goods from vehicles, and illegal possession of firearms.

The rate of carjacking in South Africa remains virtually unchanged since 2004, though this statistic does not tell the full story. Carjackings have been on the rise in all but two provinces in the Republic. The enormous rise in the number of carjacking in Free State (259.1%) and Mpumalanga (107.9%) have been offset by decreases reflected in a significant reduction in the number of incidents of this kind in the Western Cape (43.3%), and a reduction in Gauteng (16.5%) where more than half of the annual carjackings in South Africa take place.

The rate of many different types of robbery and financial crime has increased at a staggering rate. This includes robberies of residential and non-residential premises, banks, cash in transit, commercial crime, and shoplifting.

Residential robberies saw an increase of over 100% and robberies at non-residential sites has increased by 295.3%. Although all provinces share in the responsibility for these increases, the contribution from certain provinces is particularly shocking. For example, in 2003/2004 only 15 cases of robbery at non-residential premises were reported in Free State. Remarkably, this figure jumped to 873 for the 2009/2010 year, representing a 5720% increase.

The rate of reported cases of commercial crime and shoplifting both also increased substantially at 51.9% and 23.3%, respectively.

Notably, drug-related crime has increased in every South African province, which resulted in a jump of 115% in the number of reported cases during the reporting period. Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol provided an even greater increase (152.9%). Again, every province contributed to this boost.

If you would like SAHA to assist you in obtaining access to information of SAPS or any other public or private body, please contact the Freedom of Information Programme.