The truth about ‘crime waves’ in South Africa – and the types of areas targeted by criminals

Statistics South Africa recently published its annual Victims of Crime Survey, showing a perceived increase in crime over 2016/17 and 2017/18.

According to the survey, household crimes increased by 5% to a total of 1.5 million incidences of crime while individual crime also increased by 5% to a total of 1.6 million incidences – affecting 1.4 million individuals aged 16 and above.

However, while the overall level of crime looks to have increased across the country, it is not necessarily reflected by ‘crime waves’ in South Africa’s suburbs.

Speaking to BusinessTech, regional executive for Fidelity ADT, Agnieszka Gryn noted that many communities may see a slight increase in crime, or crime intermittently over a long period and label this as a crime wave.

“From our own statistics we do not find specific instances where an area is consistently hit by a sudden surge in crime,” she said.

“Although we have seen instances where a large area may experience a higher than normal rate of crime from time to time, this does not indicate a crime wave.”

She added that crime is typically cyclical dependant on the season, economic pressure, level of development – all of which have an impact on the perceived level of crime.

“We also find that some types of crime may be more localised to specific areas – for instance, the theft of gate motors – but these trends tend to move around and crop up sporadically in most areas,” she said.


Citing available research, Gryn said that it seems that criminals often target individuals or areas that they perceive to have high-value items and areas where the level or certainty of escape is perceived to be easier.

This is why areas near highways, greenbelts or with little to no security are more prone to crime, she said.

“However, this does not mean that all such areas are crime hotspots. As an example, smash and grab crimes often take place at intersections – however not all intersections are smash and grab hotspots.

“Also, the hotspots or ‘known areas’ move because criminals know the area is being watched or security has been increased.”

She added that if residents feel that crime is higher than normal – or if they feel unsafe – they should seek out their local resident’s association, or community policing forum and engage with the local security companies and the SAPS to determine a strategy that can mitigate crime in the area.

“Working and living in isolation doesn’t help,” she said.

“We have found that communities who work closely together and are actively involved in the security of their community are less likely to fall victim to crime.”


Gryn also set out the following additional security tips for people living in suburbs experiencing increased incidents of crime:

  •  Ideally, your security provider should have access to your property in the event of an emergency. If you don’t have an access arrangement in place, such as a lock box or digipad, speak to your security provider about what options are available.
  • Test your alarm, panic buttons and outdoor security systems at least once a month. If you’re going on holiday during peak season, test your alarm well in advance of your departure so that a technical service call can be arranged if necessary. The demand is very high for technical services during peak season.
  • Test the battery life of your alarm system regularly too so that you are not left vulnerable during a power outage.
  • Cut back any bushes or trees that may offer easy access over walls or gates to your property, or provide places for criminals to hide.
  • Get to know your neighbours and your neighbourhood. This way you will be able to tell if something or someone doesn’t belong.
  • Be aware of your surroundings at all times especially when arriving or leaving home. If you think you’re being followed or notice suspicious people near your property, drive to the nearest public place and contact your security provider or the SAPS.
  • Double check that you have locked and secured all windows and doors before leaving home.
  • Make sure that your children and domestic staff know what to do and who to contact in an emergency. They must know how to use the alarm system and panic buttons and store emergency numbers on speed dial and next to a landline.
  • Never allow strangers onto your property, no matter what they say their business is.
  • Arm your alarm whenever you leave home and when you go to bed.

Read: Big increase in hijackings and other crimes targeting businesses in South Africa

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The truth about ‘crime waves’ in South Africa – and the types of areas targeted by criminals