South Africa’s ‘true’ crime stats – things are worse than what police data shows

 ·24 Aug 2023

Stats SA has published the latest Victims of Crime (VoC) survey, showing that thousands of crimes continue to go unreported in South Africa, skewing the true reflection of serious crimes in the country.

The survey comes less than a week after the latest crime statistics were published by the South African Police Service for the second quarter of the year, which showed a decrease in violent crimes such as murder in the country, as well as a reduction in several other serious crime categories.

South Africa’s official crime statistics are based on incidents or crimes reported at police stations and crimes discovered by the police. This means the data can only reflect the crimes that go through the official process, leaving many crimes unaccounted for.

The VoC Survey, on the other hand, looks at crimes through the victim’s experience, including the significant number of crimes that go unreported in South Africa.

Broadly, serious crimes like murder are almost always reported to the police – but as categories move towards theft or even common assault, incidents are severely under-reported, implying that the SAPS reported figures a massively understated.

Crime Levels in South Africa

According to the data from Stats SA, household crimes, including housebreaking, home robbery and theft of motor vehicles, increased from 2021/22 to 2022/23.

Crimes experienced by individuals also increased, except for the hijacking of motor vehicles and consumer fraud.

Overall, the most common crime experienced by households in South Africa is housebreaking (where the victims are not in the house at the time of the incident), with 1.1 million households experiencing housebreaking incidents in the 2022/23 period.

These households collectively experienced 1.6 million incidences of housebreaking occurred, representing 5.7% of all households in the nation.

However, the percentage of households that reported incidences of housebreaking to the police declined from 59.2% in 2021/22 to 51.4% in 2022/23.

This means that almost half of all housebreaking reported to the police are not accounted for in the official crime stats.

Source: Stats SA

Moreover, there were an estimated 238,000 incidences of home robberies (where the occupants were in the house at the time), which affected 195,000 households over the period.

In this type of crime, only 56.8% of households reported some of all incidences of their home robberies to the police.

Additionally, 68,000 households experience assault, with a total of 85,000 incidents. Here, only 53.7% of households that experienced assault reported some or all incidences to the police.

Source: Stats SA

There were over just 1.52 million incidences of theft of personal property over the period, which affected 1,228,000 South Africans aged 60 or above.

Only 41.4% of individuals who experienced theft of personal property reported some or all incidences to the police.

In addition, a total of 314,000 adults experienced consumer fraud, and only 38.1% of victims reported these incidents to the police – a decrease of 6.1% compared to the prior period.

Overall, it is clear that South Africa’s officials crime statistics, which are already alarmingly high, do not reflect the true numbers of crimes in the country

Feelings of safety

According to the survey, 80.9% of respondents said that they feel safe walking alone in their neighbourhood during the day, while only 37.0% felt safe walking alone in their neighbourhood at night.

29.7% said that they have done something to protect themselves, with 43.8% indicating that they only walk during safer hours as a main thing they do to protect themselves from crime.

For those aged 16 and older, nearly 80% said that they felt safer after using measures to protect themselves against crime.

Source: Stats SA

Read: Your breakfast is about to get cheaper in South Africa

Show comments
Subscribe to our daily newsletter