South Africa’s murder rate down 3.1%

20 September 2012

South Africa’s murder rate continued to drop in 2011/12, with a 3.1% decrease following on the previous year’s 6.5% decrease, the country’s annual crime statistics reveal.

Releasing the national statistics in Cape Town on Thursday, Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa said murder in the country had fallen by 27.6% over the last eight years.

Mthethwa said research by the police’s crime research and statistics unit revealed that about 65% of murders began as assaults resulting from interpersonal, often alcohol or drug-fuelled, arguments.

Of the remainder, 16% of murders were committed in the commission of other crimes and one percent were gang-related.

‘Contact’ crimes on the decrease

Mthethwa said the police were encouraged by the continuing decrease in attempted murder (down by 5.2%), assault with intent to do grievous bodily harm (4.2%), and common assault (3.4%).

He said “contact crimes”, or “crimes against the person”, had decreased by 3.5% overall between 1 April 2011 and 31 March 2012. This followed a 7% decline in contact crimes in 2010/11 and a 35% drop in contact crimes over the last eight years.

Seven categories of serious crime – murder, attempted murder, sexual offences, assault with intent to do grievous bodily harm, common assault, aggravated robbery and common robbery – are grouped together as contact crimes.

Sexual offences ‘still unacceptably high’

While sexual offences fell by 3.7% in 2011/12, rape only decreased by 1.9%. Mthethwa said rape and sexual assault was a challenging category for the police, and more resources and mechanisms were being put in place to combat them.

“It is also influenced by a reporting behavior. If victims trust the police, then you will get more reporting. So the issue of under-reporting remains a challenge, and not just in South Africa but internationally,” Mthethwa said.

The Family Violence, Child Protection and Sexual Offences unit had been re-established in 2009, and had helped secure convictions, in cases involving victims over the age of 18, totaling 10 854 years and 131 life sentences, and for victims under the age of 18, totaling 10 345 years.

Organised crime, business robberies

Car hijackings, meanwhile, had decreased by 11.9% over the last financial year, after falling by 23.6% in the previous financial year. Cash-in-transit heists fell by a massive 37.5%, while bank robberies decreased by 10.3%.

ATM bombings also fell, by almost 35% – from 399 cases in 2010/11 to 251 cases in 2011/12 – after increasing by 62% in 2010/11.

While house robberies fell by almost 2%, business robberies continue to increase and were up by 7.5% – most of these against small businesses.

Mthethwa said the police had finalised a strategy to combat and reduce robberies on small businesses, adding that the Civilian Secretariat of Police would be engaging with relevant parties in the coming weeks to ensure that the policy was implemented.

He said that while house robberies had fallen by just under 2%, these robberies had fallen by almost 25% over the last seven years.

‘Citizen, play your part’

He urged the public to report any information relating to crimes committed in communities, and called on community members to desist from buying and selling stolen goods – including CDs and DVDs – and to take part in neighbourhood safety forums.

Crimes that increased during 2011/12 included stock theft (up by 1.5%), theft out of motor vehicles (4.8%), drug-related crimes (15.6%), and driving under the influence of alcohol (4.5%).

Mthethwa said the increase in driving under the influence was worrying, as it followed a 2.9% increase in 2010/11.

He welcomed the National Prosecuting Agency’s decision to charge people with murder instead of culpable homicide when death resulted from car accidents in which the driver was under the influence.