The South African Police Service (SAPS) and Stats SA have published quarterly crime statistics for the second quarter of the 2020/21 period, covering criminal activity reported between July and September 2020.
The data shows a massive up-tick in criminal activity almost across the board when comparing numbers against the previous quarter (April to June 2020) – this is largely due to the previous quarter being during heightened lockdown.
Ongoing analysis and reports of crime during lockdown pointed to a massive reduction in criminal activity during the initial stages of lockdown, especially ‘hard’ lockdown (level 5).
This was seen in a 72% reduction in murders, and an 81% reduction in carjacking. Similar trends were seen in reported assaults, attempted murders, robbery and rape.
However, these trends reversed and slowly returned to normal levels as lockdown eased. By July, insurers and tracking companies had reported vehicle theft and hijacking numbers were back to their pre-lockdown levels.
A better reflection of the crime situation in South Africa is comparing year-on-year numbers. Here, the data shows that crime activity in South Africa is lower than a year ago, due to the country still being under some degree of lockdown.
Police minister Bheki Cele said that the second quarter stats reflect “a South Africa operating under eased restrictions under the Disaster Management Act”. However, as restrictions ease and the country gets back to normal, the big drops in certain crime categories are expected to narrow.
Contact crimes include murder, attempted murder and sexual offences, as well as common assault and robbery.
Contact-related crimes include arson and malicious injury to property.
Other serious crimes include commercial crime, shop-lifting and all other types of theft – while aggravated robbery includes hijackings, robbery at residences and cash-in-transit heists and bank robberies.
Crimes detected as a result of police action cover crimes discovered by active policing, such as road-blocks and raids.
Categories covered by this are the illegal possession of firearms, DUI or driving under the influence (of drugs or alcohol); and the use, possession or trade of illegal drugs.
Among the community reported crimes, robberies – be it of cash-in-transit or at residential premises – were some of the only crimes to see an increase over the period. Other crimes that increased include commercial crimes, carjacking, attempted murder – while a single bank robbery was reported.
All other crime categories saw fewer reported crimes, again attributed to the country slowly coming out of lockdown, but there still being restrictions in place.
Notable reductions were seen in burglaries and theft out of vehicles, which usually take place when people are out of the home.
“As we approach the festive season, criminals are trying to make up for the time lost during the ‘crime holiday’ experienced in the first quarter of the financial year. This is demonstrated by the increase in the country’s most feared crimes, which are residential robberies.
“While many citizens are still working from home due to the Nationwide Lockdown, incidents of home invasions have increased by 8.5%. On the other hand, cases of business robberies have declined by the same percentage,” Cele said.
The scramble to ‘catch up’ by criminals is also reflected in increasing Cash in Transit heist figures, he said.
“It is clear armed gangs targeting cash vans, are becoming more desperate and ruthless as the year comes to a close. These criminals are stopping at nothing to carry out their criminal acts, often doing so in public spaces near innocent bystanders.”
The biggest drops were seen in crimes as detected by police – particularly in driving under the influence, and drug-related crimes.