These crimes are surging in South Africa’s major cities

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Crime in South Africa
A scene in Cape Town. (Getty)
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  • While fewer crimes were reported between July and September in 2020 compared to the previous year, some offences are becoming more common.
  • On a national level, more aggravated home invasions, cash-in-transit heists, truck hijackings and commercial crimes are being committed.
  • Law enforcement in South Africa’s major cities, including Cape Town, Johannesburg, Pretoria, and Durban, have noticed a worrying uptick in certain crime trends.
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South Africa’s quarterly crime statistics, measuring incidents reported between July and September 2020, show a decrease in most serious crimes compared to the same period in 2019. With contact crimes dropping by 12% overall and total sexual offences decreasing by 17%, the positive summary sours when assessing cases of aggravated robbery.

This crime trend is especially prevalent in the country’s major metropolitan hubs. Reports of carjackings, aggravated robberies at homes and businesses, cash-in-transit heists and truck hijackings all increased in South Africa’s urban centres.

On a national scale, "aggravated" robberies from houses (home invasions) grew by almost 9%, while cash-in-transit heists and truck hijackings surged by 60% and 32% respectively.

While the statistics released by the South African Police Service point to a resurgence in rural criminality, the country’s city centres, still accounting for the bulk of offences due to a burgeoning population density, have borne the brunt of the surge in aggravated robberies.

READ | Crime dramatically declined in these areas - with central Cape Town particularly quiet

Studying the data presented within the recent quarterly release and tracking the number of crimes reported at police stations in Cape Town, Johannesburg, Pretoria, and Durban, a clearer picture of urban security begins to emerge.

Crime in Cape Town

While Cape Town Central police station, located in the heart of the Mother City’s CBD, recorded the largest overall decrease in criminal activity in comparison to other urban precincts, certain crimes throughout the metropolitan showed worrying growth trends.

Serious crimes like murder and attempted murder increased in Khayelitsha, Harare, Delft, and Kraaifontein. While the provincial attempted murder rate grew by 9%, some police stations in Cape Town recorded staggering increases. In Bellville, reports of attempted murders surged by 900% with nine more incidents reported in 2020. Stations in the city’s northern suburbs, namely Brackenfell, Bothasig and Kraaifontein reported that that attempted murder rate had more than doubled.

Seven Cape Town police stations, which occupy the national top-10 murder list, reported that 429 people had been murdered between July and September 2020. These stations account for 42% of all murders recorded in the Western Cape at a rate of almost five killings every day.

Aggravated home invasions and robberies also surged in Cape Town, with the northern suburbs, again, recording increases of at least 50%. Police stations in Nyanga, Khayelitsha, Philippi East, Delft, Mfuleni and Kraaifontein reported a combined total of 1,599 incidents of aggravated robbery. Residential robberies increased by 8.4% in the Western Cape, with most of these home invasions occurring in the City of Cape Town. Steenberg police station, in the city’s southern suburbs, reported a 400% increase in residential robberies.

Aggravated residential robberies – defined as a crime where a weapon was used or injury inflicted on the victim – were one of the only crimes to increase in the city centre, doubling to four incidents compared to 2019.

Crime in Johannesburg

Johannesburg’s metropolitan precincts saw a sharp rise in both carjackings and truck hijackings, at 5% and 52% respectively. Johannesburg Central police station reported a 17.9% increase in carjackings, with five more vehicles stolen with aggravating circumstances in 2020. Carjackings in Yeoville increased by 35.7% and in Kempton Park by 51.9%.

Johannesburg reported more truck hijackings than any other city in the country. Ten metropolitan police stations reported a total of 82 incidents, accounting for 33% of the provincial total.  

Police stations in Sandton, Rosebank and Protea Glen all recorded increases in aggravated non-residential robberies. Residential robberies in Yeoville increased by 36%, adding to the overall provincial rise in home invasions by 2%. While burglaries at non-residential premises decreased on a provincial level, most inner-city police stations recorded a noticeable increase in business robberies, with incidents in Protea Glen increasing by 87%.

Crime in Pretoria

Police officers in Pretoria had their hands full between July and September 2020, with inner-city stations recording increases in carjackings, murders, home invasions, common robbery and shoplifting.

Brooklyn police station recorded seven carjackings, which relates to a 600% increase compared to 2019, and a 153% surge in shoplifting with 124 incidents reported. Carjackings recorded by Pretoria’s four-station cluster – consisting of Pretoria Central, North, West, and Moot – totalled 63 with increases across all precincts. The number of hijackings in Pretoria West almost doubled to 42, with incidents of shoplifting growing by 150%.

Pretoria’s murder rate also showed a significant rise, with the central police station recording seven killings compared to last year’s four. More murders were recorded in the north and west precincts compared to 2019, too. The attempted murder rate also grew in Sunnyside and Silverton.

Incidents of common robbery in Garsfontein doubled while Brooklyn police station recorded a total of 98 cases, representing a 23% increase from 2019, and putting the precinct just ten cases short of Pretoria Central’s tally.

Crime in Durban

During the announcement of the latest crime statistics, Police Minister Bheki Cele singled out KwaZulu-Natal for its high rate of contact sexual offences. Increases in serious crimes, particularly in Durban’s inner-city, have raised cause for concern.

Berea police station recorded seven cases of rape, representing a 250% increase compared to 2019. Chatsworth saw an overall 12% increase in sexual offences. Bellair police station recorded three cases of rape, representing a 200% increase.

As with other urban areas in the Western Cape and Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal saw a surge in both residential and non-residential robberies. Home invasions increased by 14%, with Umbilo contributing 15 cases – or a 7% rise – to the overall total.

Durban’s attempted murder rate also increased in line with the provincial rise of 9.6%. Inanda, on the outskirts of the city centre, recorded 65 attempted murders which represents a 47.7% increase. Chatsworth also saw a 42% increase in attempted murders, while Berea recorded 12 killings representing a 300% increase from the previous year.

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