SA’s crime rate in context

You may have seen SA’s latest crime stats. They were released last week – and they were pretty grim. 

Police Minister Bheki Cele said the first three months of 2022 had more murders, more sexual violence and more assaults compared with the same period in 2021.

It’s difficult news, but we must also remember the role Covid-induced lockdowns have played in all this. 

Police noted during one of last year’s quarterly releases that you can’t really compare year-on-year trends, such as the ones released last week, because the lockdown created major shifts in criminal behaviour during those periods.

As Business Tech noted, police data released over the past few years shows that as lockdown restrictions and levels eased, criminal activity increased. 

Still, in the first three months of 2022, 6,083 people were murdered (a 22% increase from the same period last year). 

Before we start packing for Perth (Ryanair doesn’t fly there, yet) it’s worth taking a step back. Murder rates are generally regarded as a reliable crime indicator. People don’t report all violent crimes, so the stats aren’t 100% reliable there, but deaths and murders are generally reported. 

On that score, South Africa has actually made strides over the years, according to World Bank data. Our “intentional homicide rate” was 64 per 100 000 people back in 1995. That rate steadily decreased to a low of just 30 people per 100 000 in 2011. Unfortunately, the numbers have started to climb again. It was at 36 in 2017 – the most recent statistics available from the World Bank. 

Although Cele announced a range of measures to tackle the crisis it is also encouraging to see there was a jump in the number of crimes detected through police activity, meaning police are starting to do their jobs better. That’s a step in the right direction.

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