Briefing by SAPS on crime statistics - January to June 1998

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03 November 1998
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Meeting Summary

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Meeting report

3 November 1998


Documents handed out
Report on Crime Statistics January - June 1998 [available at]

The committee received a presentation by Dr De Kock on the report on National Crime Statistics for the period January - June 1998, followed by a short submission by Dr Shaw.

Presentation of Report
Dr De Kock explained that the crime statistics for the period January - June 1998 had been compared to the statistics for the period January - June 1994 to show whether there had been increases or decreases in crime rates regionally and nationally. The comparative crime figures and graphs are contained in the report booklet. Dr De Kock said that no periods earlier to January - June 1994 could be used as a comparison because until 1994 the Police Services were not amalgamated and some services did not keep statistics, therefore there were no adequate statistics on crime prior to 1994. He also explained that the crime figures used in the report were figures of crimes reported at police stations, and therefore did not account for unreported crime. He speculated that the incidence of unreported crime was not significant enough to render the report unreliable but admitted that unreported crime rates were unknown.

He also said that the rates of crimes were arrived at by calculating a ratio of reported crimes compared to head of population. Unfortunately the population figure used in the report is the figure obtained from the 1996 interim census and so is inaccurate. The result of this is that crime rates in the report are slightly higher than they would have been if the 1998 census results were used.

Dr De Kock reported that levels of violent crime in the studied period were unacceptably high, stating that among the 90 nations which report their crime figures to Interpol South Africa has the highest rate of rape, the second highest rate of aggravated robbery and the third highest rate of murder.

Dr De Kock pointed to a trend of stabilization of crime rates in the last 2 years but added that in the last 6 months crime rates have increased. He pointed to the recent socioeconomic decline as a factor in this increase in crime rates.

The Report shows the following:
• the provinces with the highest overall crime rates are Western Cape (murder, attempted murder) and Northern Cape (rape, assault occasioning grievous bodily harm);
• the Cape Flats are an area of special concern, with the highest rate of murder in the Republic, followed by Johannesburg, Soweto and Vaal Rand;
• the highest rates of rape occur in the Eastern Metropol, some large rural areas, Port Elizabeth, Vaal Rand, Northern Rand, Soweto and Pretoria, with the Southern Free State being an area of special concern;
• in relation to crimes against the person there are higher rates in the South West than in the North East of the Republic;
• crimes against the person are mostly social, interpersonal and domestic in nature, with a high correlation with the abuse of alcohol and drugs, for instance of 25,000 murders between 23,000 and 24,000 occurred in social or domestic contexts e.g. bar fights). The remaining murders were related to hijacking, armed robbery, taxi violence and political violence;
• the highest rates of fraud and commercial crime were in metropolitan areas and the rural areas in the Southern Cape (which are popular holiday destinations with many businesses and a transient population); and
• the highest rates of burglary occurred in Johannesburg, Southern Cape (with many holiday homes left empty while the owners are away) and Port Elizabeth.

Dr De Kock made a distinction between 2 categories of crime: one category which he called 'crimes of need' which are committed by persons to obtain money for subsistence (e.g. stealing a television to pawn for money to spend on oneself or one's family); and another category called 'crimes of greed' which are committed for profit, namely organised crime. The Report showed that under the umbrella of 'crimes of greed' there was a high concentration of aggravated robbery and motor theft in Gauteng, with its epicentre in Johannesburg. There were also high rates in other metropolitan areas, particularly Cape Town. Interestingly there was not a high rate of motor theft in Port Elizabeth where the motor industry is big. Dr De Kock said that the pattern of motor vehicle theft indicated that the theft was associated with organised crime rather than availability of motor vehicles.

Dr De Kock referred to farm attacks and said the main motive was robbery but, in line with a general trend, the robberies are becoming more violent. He said that there has been a dramatic increase in hijacking, and a decrease in the robbery of banks and cash in transit but could not explain either of these phenomena.

Dr Shaw said that a survey of victims of crime will be conducted this year which will provide crime figures over and above the figures in the Report. He said this survey is also expected to distinguish between crimes committed by strangers to the victim and crimes committed by persons known to the victim. Dr De Kock added that his unit would also conduct victim surveys but that these are very large and costly projects.

Some committee members commented that while the report showed decreases in certain crimes in certain areas, their perception was of an increase in those crimes in those areas. Dr De Kock said that sometimes the way crime is reported by the media can give a misleading indication of the prevalence of crime, for instance a crime by or against a high profile individual thrusts that crime into the headlines and draws people's attention to it. He added that crime rates go through seasonal changes, for instance the rate of rape in the summer months is almost double the rate in the winter months, so the rate of a particular crime may be high in a given few months but very low in the rest of the studied period giving a low average for that period.

The Committee also expressed concern at the high rate of rape. Dr Shaw said that according to his statistics the incidence and reporting of rape has increased in the last several years and most rape occurs when both victim and offender are under the influence of alcohol. Dr De Kock added that he thought that the increase in reported rapes was due to an increase in reporting and not an increase in rape. He also said that there probably remains a significant number of unreported rapes in remote areas where women may not know their rights or where victims live a long way from the nearest police station. He said there were many factors which could possibly cause the seasonal fluctuation in the incidence of rape, and suggested that one is that during the festive season (the summer months) people tend to go out, socialise, drink alcohol and use drugs more which leads to more date rape and acts of aggression including rape.


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