Incidents of household and individual crime increased in 2017/18, according to the Victims of Crime Survey, released by Statistics South Africa on Thursday in Tshwane. The increases stand in contrast to the crime statistics released by SAPS in September and may suggest people are not reporting crimes to the police due to a loss of faith in the justice system.
Statistician General Risenga Maluleke said crime has been on a downward trend since 2012/13 but last year there was a spike in most crimes covered by the survey. The Stats SA report covers 13 household crimes and seven individual crimes, fewer than the SAPS report, but also estimates the level of crime beyond what is reported to the police.
The survey estimated that household crime incidents increased by 5% to 1.54-million, with 7.5% of households experiencing crime in the last year. Individual crime incidents were also estimated to have risen by 5% to 1.68-million, with 7.5% of people over the age of 16 having been victims of crime in the last year.
Housebreaking or burglary remains the dominant household crime, accounting for 54% of such crimes, with home robbery at 10%, theft of livestock at 10% and motor vehicle theft at 8%.
Stats SA said housebreaking and burglary increased to 832,122 incidents last year. In September, SAPS said such crimes had decreased in the last year by 7.5% to 228,094 incidents. Stats SA found a slight increase in home robbery while SAPS said there was a slight decrease.
The highest increases in crime, according to Stats SA, were in motor vehicle vandalism, theft of motor vehicles, and hijacking.
The survey said the percentage of individuals who experienced crime in the last year increased to 3.7%, which is still down from 4.7% in 2013/14. The most common crimes against individuals are the theft of personal property, assault and robbery.
Cellphones are by far the most common items of personal property that are stolen. They account for 69% of thefts against individuals, with money, purses and wallets at 45%, and bank cards at 15%. Both SAPS and Stats SA found there were decreases in robbery outside the home.
Stats SA estimated there was a 12% increase in assaults over the last year after incidents declined for the previous three years. SAPS figures said assaults had declined.
The SAPS crime statistics released in September highlighted an alarming increase in murders. Stats SA estimates the number of murders in its Victims of Crime Survey and they were less than the police’s figures. Maluleke explained that many murders fall outside the individual and household crime categories the institution measures and SAPS provides the most accurate murder statistics.
The difference between the Stats SA estimates and crimes recorded by SAPS might be explained by the public’s declining trust in the criminal justice system.
Over 42% of people believe violent crime has increased, up from 39% the previous year, and only 79% of people feel safe during the day, down from 87%. Only 32% of people feel safe when it’s dark, down from 35%.
Levels of satisfaction in the police and the courts have continued to fall since 2013/14. The survey found that last year 54% of people were satisfied with how police deal with criminals and 41% are satisfied with the how courts deal with crime. Limpopo was the only province that recorded increased trust levels in the police and courts.
“Generally, the levels of crime as estimated by the Victims of Crime Survey has been declining in the past five years, of course, save a slight increase between 2016/17 and 2017/18,” said Maluleke.
He said Stats SA does not advise the government or SAPS on specific interventions that could come out of the survey, but encouraged them to engage with the findings.
“Once we have made these numbers public, we expect the society, as well as those who are holding stations in the responsibility of law enforcement and policy makers alike, to engage on them and come up with what they would do,” said Maluleke.
North West might be a good place to start. Free State, Gauteng and Mpumalanga all saw increases in crime, according to Stats SA. But the survey said in North West household crime increased by 42% and individual crime by 81% in 2017/18. DM
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