Statistics South Africa this week released the first edition of its broadened Victims of Crime Survey which includes the Governance, Public Safety and Justice Survey (GPSJS). The survey provides statistics for two of the trio crimes, that is, vehicle hijacking and home robbery. Business robbery is not covered by the GPSJS. The study found that between 2017/18 and 2018/19 hijacking of motor vehicles increased and home robbery decreased slightly. However, street robbery increased significantly. The Weekly’s Martin Makoni spoke to the Statistician General Risenga Maluleke from his Pretoria base to get a better understanding of the study and what it sought to achieve. Makoni also asked Maluleke how the findings were expected to help improve safety in communities. Excerpts:
What were some of the main findings of the Victims of Crime Survey?
Housebreaking, theft of motor vehicles, murder and consumer fraud all increased between 2017/18 and 2018/19, but not significantly. There were also cases of deliberate damaging, burning or destruction of residential dwellings and theft of personal property increased significantly. Assault and sexual offences both decreased, but not significantly.
About 1.3 million cases of housebreaking are said to have occurred last year, do people still have confidence in the authorities to report such cases?
In 2018/19 an estimated 1 345 196 incidences of housebreaking occurred, affecting 969 567 households in South Africa. The number of affected households represents 5.8 percent of all households in the country. About 48% of households that experienced housebreaking reported it to the police. The total number of households that reported housebreaking to the police is estimated to be 467 599 or 95 percent. This estimate is significantly greater than the 220 865 burglaries at residential premises reported by the SA Police Service (SAPS) in the national crime statistics.
Home robberies, which occur when there are people at home also remain a challenge in the country, how serious were they over the past year?
An estimated 264 054 incidences of home robberies occurred, affecting 183 998 households in 2018/19. The number of affected households represents 1.1 percent of all households in the country. About 60 percent of households that experienced home robbery reported it to the police. The total number of households that reported home robbery to the police is estimated to be 110 203 or 95 percent. Theft of motor vehicles was experienced by 68 030 households out of a total of 82 867 incidences.
What were some of the main items targeted by criminals during house break-ins or house robberies?
It’s general things that they targeted. In the case of housebreaking and burglary which occurs when there is nobody home, that accounted for 5.77 percent followed by home robberies which occur when there are people, at 1.09 percent. But generally, the things that get taken are cell phones, TVs and other home appliances that are easy to carry.
Theft of personal property is one of the most reported crimes because it involves the loss of items that normally require immediate replacement, do people still have confidence in reporting such matters?
An estimated 1 241 122 incidences of theft of personal property occurred in 2018/19, affecting 1 014 698 individuals aged 16 and older. The number of affected individuals represents 2.5 percent of the population. About 32 percent of individuals who experienced theft of personal property reported it to the police. A total of 451 512 or 1.1 percent of adults aged 16 and older experienced street robbery in a total of 581 438 incidences. About 35 percent of the victims reported the crime to the police. The total number of victims that reported street robbery to the police is estimated to be 156 770 or 95 percent.
There was a marked increase in the number of individuals who felt safe walking alone at night in their neighbourhoods, could this be attributed to better policing in their communities?
Yes indeed the number of individuals who felt safe walking alone at night in their neighbourhoods increased from 32 percent in 2017/18 to 35 percent in 2018/19. However, we didn’t ask the reasons why and the reason for not asking is because in this survey that we did, where we covered Governance, Public Safety and Justice, the emphasis was not on the victims of crime. We will however unpack it further in our coming surveys when we will be looking at the reasons.
Why was it so important for you to include Governance, Public Safety and Justice in this particular survey?
International trends and best practices indicate that you cannot measure the issue of public safety and justice alone. You need to include other elements of governance. For example, if you only focus on the victims of crime without looking at their perceptions and views with regard to the services of the police and the courts, then you are limiting yourself.
While the number of people who felt safe walking alone at night in their neighbourhoods increased, the number of women actually went down, were you able to establish which crimes they were afraid of?
Not really, because with crime, you can’t predict what crime will befall you. It’s only when you are a victim of crime that you realise which particular crime befell you. Right now you and I are sitting in our offices, if we should that we will fall victim to crime later in the day, we can’t tell right now if we would still be having our cell phones or cars stolen. So, there is no specific issue that people would say they fear this crime mainly.
Having gathered this information, how much do you think it can be used to address crime in the country, who else makes use of it besides the police?
We certainly rely on the media like yourselves to help us reach out to the public. But that is not enough. We also further rely on our sister departments and other policy departments. We are not a policy department ourselves. We measure crime but we don’t do anything about it. Other departments like the Correctional Services, SAPS, the Department of Monitoring and Evaluation work closely with us. We also regularly engage with different policy departments and policy makers like parliament to share this experience with them. And once we have shared with them, it’s then taken over to go and inform their operations.
Are women really confident when it comes to reporting cases of sexual assault given the most of them are not comfortable with the way they are interrogated by the police when reporting cases?
We didn’t actually ask women whether they are confident in reporting that, but what we asked, among other issues was whether they were victims of sexual offences. We found that 88 percent of the victims indicated that they reported at least one incident. Here we are talking only about throes who experienced sexual violence. The figure is up from 73 percent. We however didn’t ask if they felt they were taken seriously when they visited a police station to make a report. But in our coming report, we will be asking more questions to the victims of crime in order to get a broader perspective on the effect of crime and how the victims respond.