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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 2021Jul-Sep 2020 Jul-Sep 2021Change
Contact Crimes135 821137 145+1.0%
Contact-related Crimes26 99128 988+7.4%
Property-related Crimes95 51689 576-6.2%
Other Serious Crimes93 94994 810+0.9%
Total public reported352 277350 519-0.5%
Crime detected as a result of police action18 23519 083+4.7%
Total370 512369 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

CategoryJul-Sep 2020Jul-Sep 2021Change
Arson9861 284+30.2%
Murder5 1076 163+20.7%
Burglary at non-residential premises15 88118 776+18.2%
Commercial crime21 98724 613+11.9%
Malicious injury to property26 00527 704+6.5%
Sexual Offences11 42311 964+4.7%
Attempted murder4 9415 157+4.4%
Drug-related crime29 09430 224+3.9%
Carjacking4 8034 973+3.5%
All theft not mentioned elsewhere58 15459 671+2.6%
Assault with the intent to inflict grievous bodily harm34 89035 625+2.1%
Common assault36 85137 137+0.8%
Bank robbery110.0%
Truck hijacking411410-0.2%
Robbery at non-residential premises4 9374 867-1.4%
Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs7 8287 649-2.3%
Common robbery9 8649 619-2.5%
Sexual offences discovered as result of police action1 5681 522-2.9%
Robbery with aggravating circumstances32 74531 480-3.9%
Robbery at residential premises5 7605 372-6.7%
Illegal possession of firearms and ammunition3 6313 355-7.6%
Burglary at residential premises39 30435 949-8.5%
Stock-theft7 3396 663-9.2%
Theft of motor vehicle and motorcycle10 1468 721-14.0%
Theft out of or from motor vehicle22 84619 467-14.8%
Robbery of cash in transit6452-18.8%
Shoplifting13 80810 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



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