The South African Police Service (SAPS) released the much anticipated national crime statistics in parliament today. The crime stats cover the 2014/15 financial year, from 1 April 2014 to 31 March 2015 and include only crimes reported to the police. The categories covered are murder, business robberies, house robberies, hijackings, robbery with aggravated circumstances, drunken driving, drug related crimes and sexual offences. Government releases these statistics on an annual basis primarily to provide the public with progress in the fight against crime in the country, but also with intention to review some of the current strategies in tackling crime and guiding operational plans for the SAPS into the future.
Overall, today’s statistics indicate a somewhat negative outlook for crime in the country: of the 27 crime categories presented in the data, only 11 had decreases in reported criminal activity from 2014 to 2015. The remaining 16 categories saw crime levels rise. The statistics indicate the annual murder rate was up 4.6%. In total there were 17 805 murders in the year, an increase of 782 relative to last year. That means there are an average of 48 murders a day or two murders every hour. Attempted murder increased by 3.2% to 17 537. Business robbery went up 1.2% (an added 894 cases). Sadly the upward trend in car hijackings also continues, with the number of reported hijackings jumping 14.2% to 12 773. That means an average of 35 cars are hijacked every day. Truck hijacking increased by a massive 29.1% to 1279 (up 288 cases).
On a more positive note, sexual offences decreased by 5.4% (-3 063 cases), although lobby groups contend that this is because sexual offences are massively under reported. Burglary at residential premises decreased 2.3%. It has been suggested that this is attributable to increased private policing.
It is important to highlight that the crime data released today is not completely reliable as many crimes go unreported and the SAPS data is unaudited. While these crime statistics enable SAPS to make announcements on increases or decreases in total and specific crime, either y/y or over longer periods, it is vital to bear in mind that such crime totals or averages need to be related to specific areas or precincts. Without the right context and careful interpretation, crime statistics can be ambiguous. A national average does not provide a good basis for understanding the risk of crime. For example, 73% of murders take place in just 25% of policed areas.
Gauteng, South Africa’s wealthiest province, consistently shows the highest ratios (well above national averages) of residential and non-residential robbery and carjacking, although, again, when viewed station by station, the profile for different precincts in Gauteng suggests the occurrence of such crimes is far from uniform.
Overall, however, the latest statistics continue to indicate that the SAPS are failing to address the most serious and violent forms of crime. This is the third year we have seen an increase in murder and an increase in robberies. It is particularly concerning that we are not making the gains that we saw 5 or 10 years ago.
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