Police say bank robberies are down 70% in South Africa. South African banks say they doubled.

Business Insider SA
  • According to crime statistics released by the SA Police Service, there were four bank robberies last year, a decrease of 70% on the previous year.
  • According to the South African Banking Risk Information Centre there were more than 100 bank robberies in South Africa, more than double that of the previous year.
  • The organisations use slightly different time periods – and apparently very different definitions.
  • For more stories go to

This article has been updated below with a statement from Sabric.

According to police statistics released on Thursday, bank robberies are nearly extinct in South Africa after a big drop in the last year.

According to statistics from banks themselves they are under siege after another big increase in bank robberies last year.

South African Police Service (SAPS) crime statistics presented to Parliament show a nearly 70% decline in bank robberies for the last financial year, between April 2018 and March 2019. 

In those 12 months, the police say, South Africa had only four bank robberies in total, very nearly the 10-year record low of three recorded in the 2016/2017 year, and down hugely from the 93 recorded in 2009/2010.

The South African Banking Risk Information Centre (Sabric), a non-profit created by the biggest banks, reports bank-specific crimes using the calendar year. During 2018, according to statistics it released earlier this year, there were 105 bank robberies – an increase of more than 100%, similar to the increase it recorded in the previous year.

In November 2018 alone there were 19 bank robberies, the banking group's numbers show, and you have to go back to October 2017 to find a month with fewer than two bank robberies.

The police could immediately comment on the discrepancy.*

The SAPS-reported massive decrease in bank robberies was one of few improvements in the crime statistics, alongside a 23% decrease in cash-in-transit robberies.

Sabric reported a nearly identical percentage drop in cash-in-transit heists in its 2018 numbers, 22%, though the absolute numbers differed between the organisations. While the SAPS said there had been 183 such robberies in its year of measurement, Sabric counted 292 during the 2018 calendar year.

An addendum to the SAPS annual report for 2017/2018 shows that the police use a very narrow definition of what constitutes a bank robbery. It excludes robberies where cash-in-transit staff are held up inside a bank branch, and also excludes incidents where clients inside a bank are robbed of their personal possessions. 

The SAPS also excludes any bank robberies that take place after hours, when banks are closed. Those are classified as either robbery at a non-residential premises if guards are overpowered, or burglary at non-residential premises.

Instances in which vaults or safe deposit boxes are opened after the normal banking hours and cash or other valuable items are stolen will, again depending on the circumstances, constitute the crime of robbery at non-residential premises (if guards or other people are overpowered to gain access to the bank) or simply burglary at non-residential premises.

Burglaries at non-residential premises were flat year on year in the SAPS' numbers, while robberies at non-residential premises were marginally down.

Update: Sabric provided the following statement on the discrepancy in bank robbery statistics:

It is important to take note of the different classifications utilised by various organisations. In the instance of bank robberies, SABRIC’s statistics include both successful and attempted robberies from all of our members, including the South African Post Office.

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