FACTSHEET: South Africa’s crime statistics for April to December 2016

The South African Police Service released crime statistics for the first three quarters of the 2016/17 financial year on 3 March 2017. This factsheet presents a summary.

In June 2016, the South African government committed to releasing crime statistics every quarter to aid in decision-making.

Previously, the annual crime statistics were at least 6 months out of date by the time they were released, meaning that the data was of not much use for communities or the police in designing crime prevention plans.

At the beginning of March 2017, the police presented crime statistics for the first three quarters of the 2016/17 financial year in parliament. While this is a step in the right direction, it limits our ability to accurately compare this period with previous ones.

In this factsheet, we will therefore compare the reporting of crimes of public interest for the first nine months of 2015/16 and 2016/17. (Note: Once statistics for the full year are released, we will update this factsheet.)

READ: Understanding crime statistics in South Africa – what you need to know

CONTACT CRIMES

This overarching category refers to all crimes where there is direct contact between a perpetrator and a victim, the head of the Institute for Security Studies’ Crime and Justice Programme, Gareth Newham, explained in a briefing.

“These crimes are typically violent, or has the threat of violence associated with them, and range from murder to common assault, and includes things like robbery and rape,” he said.

1. Murder

The crime statistics for April to December 2016 show that 14,333 murders were committed, down from 14,343 for the same period the previous year. The murder rate has decreased from 26.1 to 25.6 per 100,000 people.

Between April and December 2016, an average of 52.1 murders were reported each day in South Africa.

A total of 13,698 attempted murders were reported to the police between April and December 2016, down from 13,806 for the same period the previous year. The attempted murder rate has decreased from 25.1 to 24.5 per 100,000 people.

Between April and December 2016, an average of 49.8 attempted murders were reported each day in South Africa.

READ: Where murder happens in South Africa

2. Rape

South Africa’s crime statisticsSouth Africa’s legal definition of rape is very broad. It includes the oral, anal or vaginal penetration of a person (male or female) with a genital organ, anal or vaginal penetration with any object and the penetration of a person’s mouth with the genital organs of an animal.

The police recorded a total of 30,069 rapes between April and December 2016, down from 32,161 for the same period the previous year. Between these two time frames, the rape rate decreased from 58.5 to 53.8 per 100,000 people.

Between April and December 2016, an average of 109.3 rapes were reported to the police each day in South Africa.

The Institute for Security Studies warns that “the rape statistics recorded by the police cannot be taken as an accurate measure of either the extent or trend of this crime”. Unfortunately, there is no recent, nationally representative underreporting rate for South Africa that can be used to estimate the number of rapes committed each year.

READ: GUIDE: Rape statistics in South Africa

3. Assault

South Africa’s crime statisticsThe most recent Victims of Crime Survey, conducted annually by Statistics South Africa, showed a substantial decline in the reporting rates of assault. Whereas 93.3% of assault victims indicated that they had reported the crime assault to the police in 2012, this dropped to 48.6% in 2015/16.

“So any decreases in these categories in the police statistics are likely to be as a result of fewer victims reporting the crime to the police [rather] than actual decreases in the incidents of crime,” Newham told Africa Check.

Common assault

Common assault is the “unlawful and intentional direct and indirect application of force to the body of another person” or the “threat of application of immediate personal violence to another”.

A total of 117,811 common assaults were reported to the police between April and December 2016, down from 122,351 for the same period the previous year. The common assault rate decreased from 222.4 to 210.7 per 100,000 people.

Between April and December 2016, an average of 428.4 common assaults were reported each day in South Africa.

Assault with the intent to inflict grievous bodily harm

The victim of this crime does not have to sustain serious injuries. The perpetrator just has to have the intention “to cause serious injuries”.

A total of 129,454 assaults with the intent to inflict grievous bodily harm were reported to the police between April and December 2016, down from 137,200 for the same period the previous year. The rate of assault with the intent to inflict grievous bodily harm decreased from 249.4 to 231.5 per 100,000 people.

Between April and December 2016, an average of 470.7 assaults with the intent to inflict grievous bodily harm were reported each day in South Africa.

4. Robbery

South Africa’s crime statisticsNewham pointed out that there is a “good correlation between the increase in murders and the increase in robberies” over the past years. That is because the perpetrators are usually armed and willing to use force, he said.

With most murders occurring between people who know each other, the police can do little more than swiftly bringing the perpetrators to book. But most robbers start out robbing people on the street and then graduate to bigger targets, such as houses, trucks or banks, Newham explained.

“If you don’t deal with street robberies you are going to continue having a feeder problem into other types of robbery,” Newham said. “So this is something the police can and has done something about [in the past].”

Common robbery

A robbery is committed when a person unlawfully and intentionally forcefully removes and appropriates property belonging to another person.

A total of 40,972 common robberies were reported to the police between April and December 2016, down from 41,247 for the same period the previous year. The common robbery rate decreased from 75 to 73.3 per 100,000 people.

Between April and December 2016, an average of 149 common robberies were reported each day in South Africa.

Robbery with aggravating circumstances

Robbery with aggravating circumstances occurs when a person uses a gun or weapon to unlawfully and intentionally forcefully remove property belonging to another person.

A total of 107,445 robberies with aggravating circumstances were reported to the police between April and December 2016, up from 101,252 for the same period the previous year. The rate of robbery with aggravating circumstances increased 184.1 to 192.2 per 100,000 people.

Between April and December 2016, an average of 390.7 robberies with aggravating circumstances were reported each day in South Africa.

House robbery

House robberies occur when people are confronted in their homes and are victims of theft.

A total of 16,844 house robberies were reported to the police between April and December 2016, up from 16,003 for the same period the previous year. The house robbery rate increased from 94.6 crimes per 100,000 households to 99.5 crimes per 100,000 households.

Between April and December 2016, an average of 61.3 houses were robbed each day in South Africa.

5. Hijacking of cars

A total of 12,743 cars were hijacked and reported to the police between April and December 2016, up from 11,086 for the same period the previous year.

On average, 46.3 cars were hijacked each day in South Africa between April and December 2016.

Half of the crimes were committed in Gauteng.

 

PROPERTY CRIMES

6. House burglary

A house burglary is committed when a person “unlawfully and intentionally breaks into a building” with the intention to take something on the premises.

Housebreaking topped three categories in the latest Victims of Crime Survey: the crime perceived to be most common in South Africa, the crime people feared the most as well as the crime people have experienced most.

A total of 185,756 house burglaries were reported to the police between April and December 2016, up from 186,843 for the same period the previous year.

The house burglary rate increased from 1,104.1 crimes per 100,000 households to 1,097.6 crimes per 100,000 households.

An average of 675.5 houses were burgled each day in South Africa between April and December 2016.

The Victims of Crime Survey report shows that house burglary “has consistently been the most prevalent crime experienced by households in South Africa. The level has not significantly changed since 2011 remaining at around 5% of the households reporting to have experienced this crime.”

7. Car or motorcycle theft

A total of 40,413 vehicles and motorcycles were reported stolen between April and December 2016, down from 40,743 for the same period the previous year.

An average of 147 vehicles and motorcycles were stolen each day in South Africa between April and December 2016.

After murder, car theft was the crime most reported to the police with nearly 90% of households reporting this crime, as recorded by the latest Victims of Crime Survey.

In nearly half the cases (47.7%) car theft occurred at home.

 

CRIMES DETECTED BY THE POLICE

8. Drug-related offences

A total of 215,941 drug-related crimes were recorded by the police between April and December 2016, up from 194,535 for the same period the previous year. The drug-related offences rate increased from 353.6 to 386.2 crimes per 100,000 people.

On average, 785.2 drug-related crimes were recorded each day between April and December 2016.

More than three-quarters of South African households (77.5%) thought property crimes were motivated by drug-related needs, the Victims of Crime Survey showed. This share was highest in the Eastern Cape.

 

Additional reading

FACTSHEET: South Africa’s 2015/16 crime statistics

FACTSHEET: South Africa’s 2014/15 assault and sexual crime statistics

FACTSHEET: South Africa’s official crime statistics for 2013/14

FACTSHEET: South Africa: official crime statistics for 2012/13

GUIDE: Understanding crime statistics in South Africa – what you need to know

COMMENT: The blurred crime picture – the impact of under-reporting

COMMENT: Why is crime and violence so high in South Africa?

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