South Africa crime stats 2020: everything you need to know

The South African Police Service, with Stats SA, has published the country’s crime statistics for 2019/20, showing which types of criminal activity have increased – and decreased – in the past year.

The crime stats for 2019/20 have been published ahead of than usual date in September so that the SAPS can publish the stats on a quarterly basis in future.

The stats cover 21 crime categories – 17 of which are reported by the public, and four of which are as a result of police activity.

Understanding the changes in the numbers, the 17 reported crimes should show a decrease to indicate improvement in that category, while the four police-reported crimes should increase, to show more effective policing.

Changes to crime stats in those latter four categories do not necessarily indicate an increase in those types of crimes, but could be attributed to more intensive police activity.

In the 2019/20 period, overall crime levels were down when compared to the prior year.

This is because of both fewer crimes reported in communities, as well as fewer crimes detected through police action. Across all crime categories, only contact crimes were up, with all other crime types down.

SA crime stats for 2020 (1 April 2019 to 31 March 2020)

Category 2019 2020 Change
Contact Crimes 617 210 621 282 +0.7%
Contact-related Crimes 117 172 112 244 -4.2%
Property-related Crimes 495 161 469 224 -5.2%
Other Serious Crimes 444 447 426 589 -4.0%
Total public reported 1 673 990 1 629 319 -2.7%
Crime detected as a result of police action 339 281 290 176 -14.5%
Total 2 013 271 1 919 495 -4.7%
  • 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.

Crime categories

In the 17 categories of community reported crimes, cases of carjacking have seen the biggest increase year-on-year, with the SAPS reporting 18,162 cases over the period. This equates to 50 cars being stolen in South Africa every day.

This was the only crime category to see double-digit growth, with the next largest increase seen in robberies at non-residential premises – up 3.3%.

The biggest reduction in crimes were seen in bank robberies (where no such crimes were recorded), cash-in-transit heists (down 10.4%), and instances of arson (down 7.3%).

Murders in South Africa remain high, with a 1.4% increase in 2019/20, to 21,325 reported cases. This works out to 58 people murdered in the country every day, at a rate of 35.8 people per 100,000 population.

In the categories of crime detected as a result of police activity, there was a large reduction in these crimes recorded, mainly in the drug-related crime category.

This was a similar trend to the 2018/19 stats, where the Constitutional Court ruling on the use of cannabis in the country led to a large reduction in people being arrested for marijuana-related crimes.

The state of cannabis use remains a legal grey area, with government running out of time to make the necessary changes to the country’s laws to bring it in line with the Constitution. The courts gave government until September 2020 to make the changes.

However, other detection in these categories were up – with the police finding more cases of sexual offences, driving under the influence, and possession of illegal firearms.

Biggest increase to biggest decrease in crimes 2020

Category 2019 2020 Change
Sexual offences discovered as result of police action 7 976 9 614 +20.5%
Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs 82 912 94 275 +13.7%
Carjacking 16 026 18 162 +13.3%
Robbery at non-residential premises 19 991 20 651 +3.3%
Robbery with aggravating circumstances 140 032 143 990 +2.8%
Common assault 162 012 165 494 +2.1%
Truck hijacking 1 182 1 202 +1.7%
Sexual Offences 52 420 53 295 +1.7%
Murder 21 022 21 325 +1.4%
Illegal possession of firearms and ammunition 15 736 15 779 +0.3%
Common robbery 51 765 51 825 +0.1%
Commercial crime 83 823 83 869 +0.1%
Shoplifting 60 167 59 883 -0.5%
Attempted murder 18 980 18 635 -1.8%
Burglary at non-residential premises 71 224 69 713 -2.1%
Assault with the intent to inflict grievous bodily harm 170 979 166 720 -2.5%
Theft of motor vehicle and motorcycle 48 324 46 921 -2.9%
Malicious injury to property 113 089 108 461 -4.1%
Stock-theft 29 672 28 418 -4.2%
Theft out of or from motor vehicle 125 076 118 213 -5.5%
Robbery at residential premises 22 431 21 130 -5.8%
All theft not mentioned elsewhere 300 457 282 817 -5.9%
Burglary at residential premises 220 865 205 959 -6.7%
Arson 4 083 3 783 -7.3%
Robbery of cash in transit 183 164 -10.4%
Drug-related crime 232 657 170 510 -26.7%
Bank robbery 4 0 -100.0%

Lockdown

The statistics cover all reported crimes between 1 April 2019 and March 2020, and thus exclude crime trends that happened over the course of the country’s Covid-19 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 reported vehicle theft and hijacking numbers were back to their pre-lockdown levels.


The full 2019/20 crime stats presentation is embedded below:


Read: Police are seeing a reduction in these 3 types of crime in South Africa

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South Africa crime stats 2020: everything you need to know