Broken school window
  • Property crimes were down sharply in the last three months of 2020, compared to 2019 – and way down compared to 2018.
  • That seemed to be, in part, because people were home, reducing the opportunity for burglary, and with their cars not in use.
  • But empty schools and locked-down bottle stores saw significant levels of theft.
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South Africa's quarterly crime stats held some good news for those who own property, police minister Bheki Cele said on Friday, with sharp decreases right across the board.

On a national level, the total reported property crimes were down a little under 16% thanks to big decreases in some key categories – such as a one-quarter drop in vehicle theft, and a big drop in residential burglary, both likely attributable to people staying at home.

The impact was national, and across most categories of property crime.

Compared to the same period in 2019, overall property-crime per province looked like this.

  • Western Cape: down 18.5%
  • Northern Cape: down 6.3%
  • North West: down 8.4%
  • Mpumalanga: down 9%
  • Limpopo: down 15.7%
  • KwaZulu-Natal: down 14.2%
  • Gauteng: down 22%
  • Free State: down 8.8%
  • Eastern Cape: down 12.8%

The only exceptions to the general downward trend were a slight uptick in stock theft in Gauteng (up 1.9%) and Mpumalanga (up 0.7%), in the Northern Cape, increases in vehicle theft (up 5.1%) and in burglary at non-residential premises (up 2.4%).

Compared to the same period in 2018, total property crimes were down a full fifth across the country.

But two types of premises were hit hard by crime.

In total, 1,794 schools were burgled – an average of some 20 per day – while 839 “liquor premises” (often bottle stores, but also bars and shebeens) were broken into, an average of a little over nine per day.

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