The 10 most common crimes in South Africa – and where they’re most likely to happen

Breaking down the recently-published crime stats from the South African Police Service, we are able to see which crimes in South Africa are happening most often – and which areas are most affected.

Aside from drug-related crimes and unspecified types of theft, the most common type of crime in South Africa is house break-ins, where 625 happen every day on average.

While the latter two crime categories are more frequent (886 and 829 happening every day, respectively), they’re more difficult to pin down.

Drugs and unspecified theft

Drug-related crimes are one of the crime categories that are determined by direct police action – meaning the reported numbers are tied to police activity and fluctuate depending on effective policing.

The crimes relate to the possession, manufacturing and distribution of drugs, are are most concentrated in the Western Cape (followed by Gauteng and KwaZulu Natal).

Drug related crimes have shown a sharp increase over the past 10 years – however it should be noted that this does not necessarily mean that the crime is getting worse, but could rather indicate that police are more effectively policing the category.

This is the same for non-reported categories like the illegal possession of firearms and ammunition, driving under the influence of alcohol, and sexual offences detected as a result of police action.

When it comes to unspecified thefts, this ‘catch-all’ category of includes the theft of non-ferrous metal such as copper cable, illegal mining, heritage crimes and poaching.

While this is the second-most common crime taking place in South Africa, the police data does not specify which type of theft is most targeted and which areas are most affected.

Crime occurrence


Excluding these more vague crime categories, these are the most common types of crime in South Africa – including the 5 areas where they’re most likely to occur based on the SAPS’ station data.

In South Africa, crimes need to be reported at the police station that is closest to where the crime took place, giving a fair indication of the crime levels in the general region the police station is found in.

It should be noted, however, that station statistics may encompass more areas than where the station is located. For example, a station in a remote area may represent the reported crimes of several neighbourhoods and small towns surrounding it, as it is the only station available to service those areas.

There are approximately 1,140 police stations in the country.


Burglary at residential premises – 625 per day

Burglaries are when criminals enter homes without permission to steal. They differ from robberies, in which criminals actively threaten residents in the process of stealing. There were 228,094 cases reported in the past year.

Station Province Reported crimes 2018 Number per day
Witbank Mpumalanga 1 460 4.0
Park Road Free State 1 288 3.5
Honeydew Gauteng 1 260 3.4
Plessislaer KwaZulu Natal 1 226 3.4
Rustenburg North West 1 176 3.2

Assault with intent to cause grievous bodily harm – 458 per day

Assault with intent to cause grievous bodily harm (GBH) refers to cases of assault where damage is done to the body, typically where the skin is pierced – either by non-fatally shooting or stabbing or bludgeoning etc. There were 167,352 such assaults reported in the latest period.

Station Province Reported crimes 2018 Number per day
Inanda KwaZulu Natal 1 176 3.2
Dobsonville Gauteng 994 2.7
Temba Gauteng 958 2.6
Umlazi KwaZulu Natal 935 2.6
Nyanga Western Cape 870 2.4

Common assault – 428 per day

Common assault refers to violent assault or battery, either intentionally or recklessly. 156,243 cases were reported in 2017/18.

Station Province Reported crimes 2018 Number per day
Mitchells Plain Western Cape 1 574 4.3
Kagiso Gauteng 1 297 3.6
Worcester Western Cape 1 178 3.2
Phoenix KwaZulu Natal 1 096 3.0
Dobsonville Gauteng 1 092 3.0

Robbery with aggravating circumstances – 379 per day

Aggravating circumstances refers to situations where a type of weapon is used to threaten the victim being robbed (without the weapon being used, which would result in assault or assault GBH or murder). There were 138,364 cases reported in the past year.

Station Province Reported crimes 2018 Number per day
Johannesburg Central Gauteng 1 954 5.4
Nyanga Western Cape 1 646 4.5
Hillbrow Gauteng 1 358 3.7
Khayelitsha Western Cape 1 294 3.5
Durban Central KwaZulu Natal 1 170 3.2

Theft out of or from motor vehicle – 354 per day

Cases where items were stolen out of vehicles (not be confused with theft of vehicles, which is stealing the vehicle itself, or carjacking, which is where drivers are forced out of the vehicle that is stolen). Includes smash and grabs. 129,174 cases were reported in 2017/18.

Station Province Reported crimes 2018 Number per day
Cape Town Central Western Cape 3 956 10.8
Stellenbosch Western Cape 1 840 5.0
Sunnyside Gauteng 1 780 4.9
Durban Central KwaZulu Natal 1 613 4.4
Humewood Eastern Cape 1 318 3.6

Malicious injury to property – 305 per day

The crime of malicious injury to property the intention is to damage property rather than to deprive the owner of ownership, as is the position in the case of theft. This could be anything from vandalising someone’s house, to breaking things that do not belong to you. 111,492 cases were reported.

Station Province Reported crimes 2018 Number per day
Mitchells Plain Western Cape 1 028 2.8
Nyanga Western Cape 1 000 2.7
Honeydew Gauteng 889 2.4
Delft Western Cape 809 2.2
Worcester Western Cape 804 2.2

Commercial crime – 201 per day

Commercial crime includes different types of “white collar” crimes such corruption, fraud, money laundering, embezzlement and forgery. There were 73,277 cases reported last year.

The SAPS does not break down this data by area, but the crime is concentrated in economic hubs – specifically in Gauteng, the Western Cape and KwaZulu Natal.


Burglary at non-residential premises – 195 per day

As with burglary as residential premises, this crime category differs from robbery in that no victims are actively confronted and threatened in the process.

Station Province Reported crimes 2018 Number per day
Witbank Mpumalanga 610 1.7
Pinetown KwaZulu Natal 585 1.6
Rustenburg North West 544 1.5
Mount Road Eastern Cape 538 1.5
Johannesburg Central Gauteng 489 1.3

Shoplifting – 170 per day

As the name implies, this is anon-violent type of theft where products are stolen from shops. It is not a robbery, which involves threatening the stores or sales people. Shoplifting is often perpetrated by the criminal pretending to be a typical customer.

The SAPS data does not break this crime down by location, but will be concentrated where there is a high level of economic activity, such as city hubs in Gauteng, the Western Cape and KwaZulu Natal.


Common robbery – 139 per day

Common robbery is simply taking the property of another, with the intent to permanently deprive the person of that property, through force or threats. If a criminal uses a weapon, it becomes a robbery with aggravating circumstances, moving to assault, or worse if they follow through.

Station Province Reported crimes 2018 Number per day
Johannesburg Central Gauteng 1 309 3.6
Cape Town Central Western Cape 1 179 3.2
Pretoria Central Gauteng 955 2.6
Hillbrow Gauteng 833 2.3
Mitchells Plain Western Cape 662 1.8

Read: South Africa crime stats 2018: everything you need to know

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The 10 most common crimes in South Africa – and where they’re most likely to happen