What the official crime stats don’t tell you about hijacking in South Africa

 ·30 Aug 2022

Statistics South Africa has published its latest Victims of Crime (VoC) survey, showing that thousands of crimes went unreported over the last year.

The survey gives supplementary perspective to the latest official crime statistics last published by the South African Police Service (SAPS) earlier this month, which showed a slight increase in criminal activity over the previous quarter – but a surge in murders and carjackings.

South Africa’s official crime statistics are based on incidents and crimes reported to police stations, as well as crimes discovered through police action. The data can only tell us about the crimes that go through official processes and do not necessarily give a reflection of the true-crime levels in the country.

The VoC survey, meanwhile, reflects criminal activity from victims’ experiences, revealing large discrepancies between experiences of crime and reported crime in South Africa – with a large number of crimes going unreported and thus not included in the SAPS’ official data.

According to Stats SA, approximately 134,000 individuals experienced hijacking in 2021/2022, up from 64,000 the year prior. However, only 62.9% of these crimes were reported to the SAPS.

Between April 2021 and March 2022, the SAPS recorded 18,299 carjacking cases.

This trend of not reporting crimes carries through across most crime categories, except in cases of violent crime like murder.

For household crimes, an estimated 1.4 million incidences of housebreaking occurred, affecting 983,000 households  – 40.8% of incidents were not reported to the police. An estimated 205,000 incidences of home robberies occurred, affecting 155,000 households in 2021/22 – 34% of incidents were not reported to the police.

In 2021/22, 42,000 households experienced the theft of motor vehicles – 42.8% were not reported to the police.

The same trend continues for individual crimes, with an estimated 1.3 million incidences of theft of personal property occurring in 2021/22, and 69% of these crimes going unreported.

This is the same for street robbery (66.3% unreported) and consumer fraud (55.8% unreported)

Incidents of violent crime like assault, murder and sexual offences have a much higher reporting rate – however, Stats SA stressed that it does not have enough data on sexual offences to draw any statistically relevant conclusions.

Feelings of safety

Given South Africa’s high crime rates, particularly with violent crime, feelings of insecurity persist in the country.

According to the survey’s findings, about 81% of the population felt safe walking alone in their neighbourhood during the day – but this drops to 36% during the night.

A significant part of the population feels defeated or at a loss in the face of crime in the country, with over 37% saying there is nothing that can be done to protect themselves or that trying to do so won’t make any difference.

A further 20.8% said that they don’t know what to do, and 20% said they could not afford to do anything.

Only 17.5% said that they would leave it up to the SAPS to protect them.

Read: Big jump in hijackings in South Africa – these are the hotspot areas and trends to look out for

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