Crime data shows South Africa’s murder rate on the rise

The South African Police Service has presented the latest crime statistics for South Africa, covering the second quarter of the 2021/22 year (July to September 2021).

Overall crime levels decreased slightly over the second quarter, compared to the same period in 2020. However, Covid-19 lockdown levels have had an impact on this.

Continuing the data trend the SAPS established in the first-quarter data, the police ministry compared the second-quarter data to ‘normal’ crime trends recorded in the second quarter of 2019.

Year-on-year trends are essentially incomparable, the SAPS said, as lockdown due to the Covid-19 pandemic created major shifts in criminal behaviour during those periods.

It is evident from the SAPS’ data that as lockdown restrictions and levels ease, criminal activity increases. The Q2 data in 2021 was captured over lockdown levels 3 and 2, while last year over the same period, lockdown levels were lower, at levels 2 and 1.

Despite these caveats, overall contact crimes were flat, up 1% over the period. Murders were up significantly, however, with 6,163 recorded in Q2, versus 5,107 last year – an increase of 20.7%.

The largest increase was seen in contact-related crimes, which were up 7.4% year on year. The SAPS said this was mainly driven by the July riots in KwaZulu Natal and Gauteng, which led to a 30.2% increase in cases of arson, and a 6.5% increase in cases of malicious damage to property.

Burglary at non-residential premises – the category that the looting of stores would fall under – also saw a sharp increase at 18.7%, reflecting the rampant theft that took place at many shops over the period.

The main changes are outlined below.


SA crime stats: Q2 2020 vs Q2 2021

2020 vs 2021 Jul-Sep 2020  Jul-Sep 2021 Change
Contact Crimes 135 821 137 145 +1.0%
Contact-related Crimes 26 991 28 988 +7.4%
Property-related Crimes 95 516 89 576 -6.2%
Other Serious Crimes 93 949 94 810 +0.9%
Total public reported 352 277 350 519 -0.5%
Crime detected as a result of police action 18 235 19 083 +4.7%
Total 370 512 369 602 -0.2%
  • 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 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 roadblocks and raids. This category covers the illegal possession of firearms, DUI or driving under the influence (of drugs or alcohol), and the use, possession or trade of illegal drugs.

Biggest increases in crime categories for 1Q21

Category Jul-Sep 2020 Jul-Sep 2021 Change
Arson 986 1 284 +30.2%
Murder 5 107 6 163 +20.7%
Burglary at non-residential premises 15 881 18 776 +18.2%
Commercial crime 21 987 24 613 +11.9%
Malicious injury to property 26 005 27 704 +6.5%
Sexual Offences 11 423 11 964 +4.7%
Attempted murder 4 941 5 157 +4.4%
Drug-related crime 29 094 30 224 +3.9%
Carjacking 4 803 4 973 +3.5%
All theft not mentioned elsewhere 58 154 59 671 +2.6%
Assault with the intent to inflict grievous bodily harm 34 890 35 625 +2.1%
Common assault 36 851 37 137 +0.8%
Bank robbery 1 1 0.0%
Truck hijacking 411 410 -0.2%
Robbery at non-residential premises 4 937 4 867 -1.4%
Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs 7 828 7 649 -2.3%
Common robbery 9 864 9 619 -2.5%
Sexual offences discovered as result of police action 1 568 1 522 -2.9%
Robbery with aggravating circumstances 32 745 31 480 -3.9%
Robbery at residential premises 5 760 5 372 -6.7%
Illegal possession of firearms and ammunition 3 631 3 355 -7.6%
Burglary at residential premises 39 304 35 949 -8.5%
Stock-theft 7 339 6 663 -9.2%
Theft of motor vehicle and motorcycle 10 146 8 721 -14.0%
Theft out of or from motor vehicle 22 846 19 467 -14.8%
Robbery of cash in transit 64 52 -18.8%
Shoplifting 13 808 10 526 -23.8%

Comparing Q2 to Q2 data from 2019, the crime picture changes significantly for the better, with most crime categories showing a decline.

Stand-out increases are murders, which are up 13.2% compared to 2019, as well as truck hijackings and arson, again related to civil unrest over the 2021 period.

The table below outlines the crime category comparison between Q2 2021, the same period in 2020 and the ‘normal’ period in 2019.


Read: Hijackings on the rise in South Africa – here are the hotspot areas

Must Read

Partner Content

Show comments

Trending Now

Follow Us

Crime data shows South Africa’s murder rate on the rise