Photo: Antoine de Ras
Photo: Antoine de Ras

The crimes that South Africans fear the most are down. This is according to the latest crime statistics released by the police on Thursday, which show that there were fewer murders last year than any other year since the advent of democracy.

And aggravated robberies – including home invasions – are down, too.

“For the first time in the history of the SAPS (which came into being in 1995), the murder figure fell below the 16 000 mark,” said police management this morning.

“In 1995/96 a total of 26 887 murders were recorded, while in 2010/11 the figure decreased to 15 940 murders.

“That represents a 40.7 percent decrease (which translates into a ratio decrease of 53.2 percent), while South Africa’s population increased by at least 28.0 percent (excluding the influx of undocumented immigrants).

“This means that murder decreased by 50 percent in the face of rapid population growth and massive urbanisation, both also stimulated by the additional influx of undocumented immigrants.”

Last year the police recorded a total of 16 834 murder cases, which was a decrease from the year before.

The figures are from the annual crime statistics for the financial year April 2010 to March 2011, released in Pretoria on Thursday morning by Minister of Police Nathi Mthethwa, Deputy Minister of Police Maggie Sotyu and national commissioner General Bheki Cele.

According to the crime situation report, experts would have expected an increase in murder during such a period of rapid population growth and urbanisation, which is usually associated with unemployment, poverty and increases in social crimes.

“Murder, being the one crime trend that should virtually not be influenced by over- or under-reporting and/or the non-registration of cases, is consequently believed to be the most consistent indicator of increases and decreases in crimes,” said the report.

There were about 5 675 serious crimes registered on average every day in South Africa during 2010/11 – a good news figure that indicates the country is becoming a safer place.

Overall, serious crimes were down by 2.4 percent or 50 400 cases to 2 071 487 registered cases.

Excluding the crimes detected by the police – which should increase when police are working harder – the serious crimes are down by 3.7 percent, or nearly 70 000 cases.

If the ratio of crimes per 100 000 people is measured, the drop is 5 percent.

The police said this “exceeds the government target two-and-a-half times”.

The numbers of cases of some of the most-feared crimes are all moving down.

- The number of murders is down by 5 percent.

- The number of attempted murders is down 11 percent.

- The sexual crimes total is down 3 percent.

- Car hijackings are down 24 percent.

- Truck hijackings are down 29 percent.

- Armed robberies are down 11 percent.

- Bank robberies are down a massive 58 percent.

- Cash-in-transit heists are down 19 percent.

- Home invasions are down 10 percent.

- Street robberies are down 10 percent.

- Business robberies are about the same.

The worst news is that criminals are targeting ATMs in a big way, so ATM blasts are up by 62 percent.

This year ATM blast statistics were added as a new category of aggravated robberies.

The police produced seven years’ worth of ATM blast numbers, starting from a low of eight in 2004/05, jumping to a high of 431 in 2007/08 and ending with 399 for the past year.

In Gauteng, carjacking dropped by 20 percent from 7 444 cars hijacked to 5 936.

Gauteng house robberies – he feared home invasions – dropped 12 percent from 8 051 to 7 039 incidents.

Business robberies increased in seven provinces, particularly in the Eastern Cape, but in Gauteng they dropped 13 percent from 6 379 to 5 553 incidents.

Police attributed the decrease in murder to “extremely high levels of police visibility” in the first part of 2009/10 because of the 2009 general elections, the inauguration of President Jacob Zuma and the Confederation Cup soccer tournament.

High police visibility continued last year during the World Cup, particularly in Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal, which account for a big share of the national crime totals.

“These high levels of visibility may not have had any noticeable effect on social contact crime, but it would have reduced the number of robberies (and thus also murders and attempted murders committed by robbers and deaths and injuries inflicted by their victims acting in self-defence), as well as murders committed during inter-group violence,” said the report.

Another reason cited for the successes was the crackdown on robberies.

Aggravated robbery (armed robbery) was down by 11 percent, from 113 755 in 2009/10 to 101 463.

These robberies include hijackings, home and business robberies (which are robberies when the victims are on the premises), cash-in-transit heists and bank robberies.

“Aggravated robbery, despite being a contact crime itself, is also the second-largest generator of other contact crimes, particularly attempted murder and murder,” said the report.

“This is because victims are sometimes killed and/or seriously injured during such robberies.”

If the robberies are reduced, the murders should therefore also decrease. - The Star