Crime in South Africa

How safe is living in Cape Town?

The high rate of crime in South Africa is a major concern for tourists as it is for expatriates moving to or living in Cape Town.

On this page you will find information on the latest South African crime statistics published in September 2015 and the latest Victim of Crime surveys from December 2015. Further we will share some insights and safety tips below.

South Africa is known to have one of the crime rates in the world regarding assault, rape and murder. Johannesburg, Pretoria, Cape Town and Durban are ranked usually as critical crime threat locations.

With terror alerts, xenophobic outbreaks and recurring protest actions along the cities' major highways, many expats and foreigners are wondering about the crime situation and their safety in South Africa. Here we will share our insights.

Cape Town Townships - Hotspots for Crime in South Africa

The recurring reports about public unrest as well as about the many rape and murder incidents are in fact very intimidating. When moving to South Africa, be prepared to investigate which area to move to, where to live and which places to avoid, so you can minimise the risk of becoming a victim of crime. 

Crime and violence affect everybody like everywhere else in the world. In South Africa, most crimes are reported in poorer areas, but also the residents in more affluent suburbs are affected by violence and crime. There are certain areas especially in the townships which are no-go areas, if you are not accompanied by a local guide and are introduced to the area.

Make sure, that you get in-depth information about an area unknown to you or contact the local police station for current advice, if you are not certain that the area you plan to visit, work in or travel through is safe.

To help you get a better overview of the situation of crime in South Africa, we decided to have a look again at the latest South African crime statistics as reported in September 2015 and give you some insights.  

The latest South Africa Crime Statistics

The main figures given in the latest South African Crime Statistics in comparison to the statistics of the last year (2013/14 to 2014/15) state:

Increases

  • Contact and contact-related crimes increased again by 0.9% and 1.9%. Among these crimes are common assault, attempted murder, robbery with aggravating circumstances and malicious injury.
  • Robbery with aggravating circumstances increased significantly by 8.5%. Murder and attempted murder increased also by 4.6% and 3.2% respectively 
  • Truck- and carjackings increased by 29.1% and 14.2% respectively. Of a total 11,180 carjackings the vast majority happened in Gauteng.
  • Robbery at residential premises by 5.2%, robbery at non-residential premises increased by 3.2%.
  • Crime detected as result of police action increased by 1.9%

Decreases

  • Commercial crime decreased by 11.6%
  • Rape decreased by 7.4%
  • Property-related crimes (burglary, arson, malicious damage, theft): decreased slightly by 0.8%
  • Bank robbery decreased by 19% (increased by 200% in 2013/2014!)

Note: Only reported crime is taken into the data, the real crime figures are estimated to be higher, as for example rape victims often do not report this serious offence in fear of reprisals. Further burglary and animal stock theft is not always reported to the police.

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Crime in South Africa - Cape Town Crime Statistics Findings

  • Offences such as street muggings (which however are involving increasingly handguns), smash-and-grab-robberies and pick-pocketing are a common occurrence in many cities around the world and you are advised to stick to common-sense safety measures.
  • Serious crimes were experienced mainly in low-income areas and townships. The highest violence, assault and property crime rate is experienced in Mitchell's Plain, where gang-violence is claiming many lives. Further, areas such as Khayelitsha, Gugulethu or Nyanga remain the most dangerous according to murder statistics of the last years.
  • Burglary, robbery and theft of private property were among the most reported crimes.
  • Many southern suburbs were affected recently due to violent housebreakings and the popular Hout Bay had more recent spate of car-jacking. However, many of the neighbourhoods have put on special awareness campaigns and stepped up security with private watches and have now a much more visible police presence. Crimewatch members patrol the streets day and night and so have cut down on criminal offences drastically.
  • For car-jacking, theft of private property and robbery the middle class and more well-heeled population are especially targeted.
  • Be alert as ID theft is increasingly happening. Check your surroundings when using any ATM and report suspected ID theft immediately.

Victim of Crimes Survey by Statistics South Africa

The Victim of Crimes Survey is a countrywide household based survey undertaken by StatisticsSA to explore the perceptions of the public in regards to crime prevention and activities dealing with crime and victimisation. Data is collected in form of face-to-face interviews at randomly chosen homes. The accuracy is limited to the actual answers by the victims and their ability to recall past victimisation events. The data is thus collected completely differently to the police statistics which only give a picture about reported crimes and incidents.

Here are some interesting findings:

  • Over 80% of the interviewed persons in Gauteng, the Western Cape and Eastern Cape believed that property-related crime was mostly motivated by drug related needs and not by real needs.
  • Almost half of the victims of sexual offences knew the perpetrator. The perpetrators were mainly either member of the community 34.2%, a lover or spouse 16.8% or a relative 9.2%. 
  • Assault and sexual offences are believed to be highly underreported as the majority of victims of these crimes reported they were also victimised by their relatives, a known community member, spouses and lovers.
  • More than 70% of the interviewed believed that corruption had increased during the previous three years
  • Housebreaking/Burglary increased to 5.1% while home robbery, theft of personal property dropped. These were the most common crimes experienced. Roughly one in ten of the interviewed was victim of these crimes.
  • Theft from cars, car theft and housebreaking happened mostly at night.
  • Victims were mostly satisfied with the performance of police, the highest level of dissatisfaction with police performance was seen in the North West and Northern Cape provinces. 

Crime in South Africa: Carjackings 

Carjackings happened in all provinces. Over 11,000 carjackings are reported in the Crime Statistics 2015. The provinces with the most occurrences of the nine provinces are Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal, the Western Cape and the Eastern Cape.

Read more about carjackings and prevention tips

Be informed about Crime: Safety Advice

In regards to more recent burglaries at shopping malls and various stores selling goods of high value, the only advice is too be vigilant who is in and around the shops or in the malls. It is a scary thought to get involved in a crime situation, but unfortunately only good security can prevent this - as everywhere in the world - and shopkeepers and staff at malls are called to take their task more seriously and employ better preventative measures as well.

Read through the 'Be Alert!' Advice by the South African Police Service (SAPS) here

It is highly recommended, to take some basic safety precautions, when moving to and living in South Africa. There are simple precautions which you should take for not becoming a victim of crime in South Africa.

Read our safety tips for Cape Town

Recommended Reading on Crime in South Africa

• Find the 2014/2015 statistics here. Beware that there is only a limited section available to the public this year. The next crime in South Africa statistics are expected to be published in late September 2016.

• Read the more comprehensive South African crime statistics 2014 in all its details. You will find here the most recent information by the SAPS (South African Police Service) about the situation of crime in South Africa.

• A really good information is the Crime and Safety Report of the (Overseas Security Advisory Council) of the US Consulate in Johannesburg. Click here to access this Report of the OSAC 2015 

• The Victim of Crimes Survey offers good insights into the perception of crime and the statistical data. You will find the latest VOC survey 2013/4 here.

Remember to keep informed to stay safe!

Living in South Africa - Expat Guide Book by Regina Graeff and Derryn Campbell

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