9 reasons why South Africans don’t trust the police

A new report released by Statistics SA shows that South Africans simply do not feel safe in the country – and there is little faith in the SAPS to combat rising crime levels.

The Victims of Crime Survey for 2014/2015 looked at private households from all nine provinces in South Africa, and provides information about the dynamics of crime from the perspective of these households and victims of crime.

It also gauges public perceptions on the police service, prosecutors, courts and correctional services in the country.

The data complements the recently-released crime data from the SAPS in September, which showed that overall crime levels in the country have increased since 2014.

A total of 2.206 million crimes were committed over the period, up marginally – 0.09% – from the 2.204 million reported in 2014.

According to the Victims of Crime Survey, South Africans’ experiences have been similar, with citizens reporting a feeling that the crime situation in the country is worse – particularly house-breakings and home robberies.

The increase in crime has lead to an increase in fear among citizens, which has hindered their ability to engage in day-to-day activities, such as going to the park, or simply walking in the streets.

About 68.9% of households felt unsafe when it is dark – a noticeable declining trend observed from 2011 to 2014/15.

More than a third of households (36.9%) were prevented from going to open spaces or parks when alone because of fear of crime, while 18.4% of households could not allow their children to walk to school unaccompanied by an adult.

Because of fear of crime, households in the country took measures to protect themselves. About 51.6% of households took physical protection measures for their homes, while more than 29% of households took physical protection measures for their vehicles.

No faith in Criminal Justice System

There is a prevalence of under-reporting crime incidents to the SAPS in the country, which remains a major concern, Stats SA said.

Households’ satisfaction with the way the police and courts dealt with the criminal matters decreased between 2011 and 2014/15; about 57.0% of households were satisfied with the police in their area and 54.4% were satisfied with how the courts were performing.

Most households who do not report crime, provide the following reasons: ‘police could do nothing’ and ‘police won’t do anything about it’.

Alarmingly, victims of sexual offences cited the crime as being “not serious enough” as reason for not reporting it to the police.

Crime categories that were more likely to be reported to the police were murder (95.7%), car theft (88.9%), car hijacking (85.8%) and sexual offences (63.0%).

In general, property related crimes, such as housebreaking/burglary (51.8%), theft of personal property (34.2%) and theft of livestock (32.3%) were less likely to be reported to the police as compared to contact-related crimes.

Police satisfaction among citizens has consistently decreased since 2011, from 64.7% to 57.0% in 2014/15.

In 2014/15, households headed by the white population group (65.9%) had the highest level of satisfaction, followed by black African headed households (56.3%).

Police satisfaction rate
Police satisfaction rate

When asked why they were not satisfied with the police service, households cited these nine main reasons most frequently:

  1. Police do not respond on time – 79.8%
  2. Police are lazy – 58.6%
  3. The stolen goods are never recovered – 51.0%
  4. Police are corrupt – 48.0%
  5. The police release criminals too early – 47.1%
  6. The police do not come into the area – 45.1%
  7. Police are cooperating with criminals – 39.1%
  8. There are not enough police resources – 33.6%
  9. Police are harsh towards victims – 32.4

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9 reasons why South Africans don’t trust the police