Serious 'contact' crime figures fall in South Africa


SOUTH AFRICA’S latest crime statistics show a reduction in all seven categories of contact offences in the year up to last March, but the country remains plagued by high levels of criminal activity.

Releasing the 2011-12 annual crime statistics at parliament in Cape Town yesterday, police minister Nathi Mthethwa said that contact crimes, including murder, sexual offences, assault and aggravated robbery, had fallen by 35 per cent compared to figures eight years ago.

All provinces except the Western Cape, the Free State and Limpopo, saw the number of contact crimes decrease.

Murder – one of the most reliable trends of crime statistics – fell by 3.1 per cent on last year, now down to 15,609 from the more than 18,000 recorded in 2004-05.

An analysis of the circumstances surrounding the murders showed almost two-thirds were committed as a result of arguments fuelled by alcohol and drug abuse, the minister said.

He added that in the category of aggravated robberies, namely car-jacking, cash-in-transit heists and bank robbery, there had also been notable successes.

Car-jacking was down 11.9 per cent on the previous year, cash-in-transit robberies were down by 37.5 per cent and bank robberies fell by 10.3 per cent.

However, overall the crime figures showed a more modest reduction of 2 per cent, as small business robberies rose by 7.5 per cent and white-collar crime and crimes against children also increased significantly.

The scourge of rape in South Africa, which rose by 1,200 to 56,272 last year, in terms of reported cases, fell only marginally, by 1.9 per cent. It is believed that only one in 10 women raped reports the incident to the authorities.

Sexual offences in general dropped by 3.7 per cent to 64,514, from the 66,196 the previous year.

“To a large extent, we do admit that this is one challenging category for police to police,” Mr Mthethwa said. “It is also influenced by reporting behaviour. If victims trust the police, then you will get more reporting, so the issue of under-reporting remains a challenge.”

While the ruling African National Congress welcomed the statistics, saying they showed steady progress, the main opposition Democratic Alliance said it had grave concerns about “the manipulation of statistics to paint a rosy picture”.

Certain categories of crime, such as domestic violence, gang-related violence and violent public protests had been absorbed into larger categories “in an effort to hide the real situation on the ground”, said alliance spokeswoman Dianne Kohler-Barnard.