The real state of SA crime

Whether you’re sipping on your tea in an upper-class residential area or find yourself comfortably ensconced in your three-bedroom townhouse in the more middle-class neck of the suburbs, no one is safe or exempt from being a victim of crime in South Africa.


Crime statistics in South Africa


In this article we take a closer look at crime in South Africa, paying specific attention to the number of burglaries taking place, the areas in which they are prevalent and the different ways in which you can caution your family/loved ones to keep safe.


With the number of property-related crimes on the increase, especially home robberies, if you don’t yet have the essential household cover or building insurance, now would be as good a time to secure your assets and take the necessary measures to ensure that you’re optimally protected.


Crime overview: South Africa

Lizette Lancaster is the Manager of the South African Crime and Justice Information and Analysis Hub (Crime Hub) at the Institute for Security Studies (ISS). For the past four years she has focused on the development, management and enhancement of the Crime and Justice Information and Analysis Hub as a user-friendly, one-stop interactive source of information and analysis on crime, its prevention and the functioning of the criminal justice system in South Africa. Lizette holds a BCom (Law), LLB and a MA in Development Studies.   

We're often told about the high levels of crime in our country and, for the most part, the amount of criminal behaviour is hugely unacceptable. However, not much emphasis is placed on actually breaking down what’s happening on our streets on a day to day basis - providing the average SA resident with a better understanding of what their actual risk to the different types of crime might be at any given moment.


Firstly, it may be of use to understand what the four main categories of crime are:


  • Contact crime: includes murder, attempted murder, sexual offences, assault, common assault, robbery, etc (both aggravated and common robbery)
  • Contact related crime: arson, malicious damage to property
  • Property related crime: residential housebreaking, housebreaking of other premises, theft and motor vehicle and motorcycle theft, both  the actual theft of vehicle as well as breaking into it
  • Other serious crime: ordinary theft, fraud related and shoplifting



The murder rate in South Africa has been decreasing systematically over the last six years and now stands at a rate of 31.3 per 100 000 people. However, for the financial year 2012 to 2013, the number of murders in SA per day increased from 43 incidents to 45.


More murders have been reported in the Cape Town area as opposed to the Johannesburg and Pretoria areas. The Gauteng Province though has its own battles to deal with. There’s been an alarming increase in the number of armed robberies and the province alone accounts for 30.5% of the cases of residential robbery in South Africa.


With regards to the high murder levels in the Western Cape, especially the Cape Town area,it's important to bear the context of the areas in which these murders are taking place in mind. Violent crimes, like murder, are more prevalent in the lower socioeconomic areas where higher levels of violence are the order of the day. Similarly, two thirds of the murders in the Cape Town area took place in a mere 10 of the 60 police precincts in the city.


The significant amount of murders in select areas (Nyanga, Gugulethu and Khayelitsha) is what led to the Western Cape being positioned as a violent and dangerous area. 


However, looking at violent crimes and the chances of being predisposed to it on any given day, places and suburbs like Rondebosch, Claremont, Camps Bay in the Western Cape and Edenvale, Garsfontein and Brooklyn in Pretoria have the same levels of exposure to violent crime on any given day as one might experience across the world . There's no significant difference to the risk of violent crimes in these areas and the average exposure to violent crimes internationally.

Armed robberies (home robberies) versus burglaries

There’s a clear distinction between burglaries and armed/home robberies. Though both are relative to the invasion of one’s personal space, burglary involves the invasion of your home; when you’re not there or are unaware of it. Armed robbery relates to the forcible entry into your home while you’re there.

Burglaries and home robberies are forms of crime which the police actually have more or less of a handle on – so to speak. Other categories of crime are more difficult to manage.  The main motivation or driver of murder and other forms of violent crime especially (assault and domestic violence) in South Africa is interpersonal conflict – where arguments are often fuelled by alcohol and drug abuse and escalate into violence, resulting in assault or domestic violence and, at its worst, murder. “Long term interventions are required to break the culture of violence in SA; our society is still very much conditioned to resolve conflict through violent means rather than non-violent mediation,” says Lancaster.


Property crime report

Looking specifically at the number of burglaries nationally over the past decade, we can observe that there’s been a decrease in the incident rate by 12.5%. However, in the past year (2012 -2013) there’s been a marginal increase in the number of residential burglaries by 6.8%, resulting in a total of 262 113 incidents from the 2012 to 2013 period with an additional 16 852 cases in the different police precinct areas. This means that each day on average 720 households were burgled.


The Top 20 areas with the largest number of property crimes for 2012 to 2013 were listed as the following (as sourced from the ISS):


 top 20 areas with highest property related crimes in SA

With a specific focus on the number of residential burglaries the following was identified:


The Western Cape

Between 2012 and 2013 in the Western Cape area, the regions listed below experienced the highest amount of burglaries, so if you’re living in the locality you may want to tighten that home security:

western cape crime stats

The area with the highest amount was Mitchells Plain with an incident rate of 1702 cases for burglary. As a lower middle-class area this is a clear representation that the more affluent areas are not always on top of the list for burglars and thieves.


Nelson Mandela Bay: The Eastern Cape

The highest number of break-ins in the Eastern Cape were found in the following areas:

eastern cape crime stats


Cambridgereported the highest incident rate for burglaries at 1 047 cases for the year 2012-2013.


Garden Province: KwaZulu-Natal

Areas reported with the highest number of burglaries were:

KZN crime stats


In the greater KwaZulu-Natal area, Pinetown was identified as having the highest number of burglaries with an incident rate of 1 375 cases.


City of Gold: Gauteng 

The areas with the highest number of burglaries in the Gauteng province are listed as follows:

Gauteng crime stats


Honeydew was identified as the area with the highest number of house break-ins with an incident rate of 2 036 cases of burglary for the period between 2012 and 2013.


Home of the City of Roses: The Orange Free State

The areas that were found to have the highest level of residential burglaries were identified as:

free state crime stats

Park Road has been publicised as one of SA’s serious crime spots and was identified as having the highest increase in home burglaries at a reported level of 1 289 in 2012.



The five areas highlighted with the largest numbers of burglaries in the North-West are indicated below:

North West crime stats


Rustenburg was reported as having the most significant number of break-ins at an incident rate of 1 604 burglaries between 2012 and 2013 respectively.


The Great North: Limpopo

The top five areas in which residents of the different localities should possibly practice extra caution in and be alert for break ins was identified as the following:

Limpopo crime stats


The community of Thohoyandou in the Limpopo Province seems to be experiencing the largest number of burglaries with 1 027 incidents between 2012 and 2013. They must be doing something right in Polokwane with regards to tightening security and law enforcement as this area experienced the greatest reduction in residential break-ins.


Where the sun rises: Mpumalanga

The five areas which experienced the highest number of burglaries in Mpumalanga were as follows:

Mpumalanga crime stats


Witbank was identified as the area that experienced the most burglaries for the time period 2012 – 2013, with an incident rate of 1 468 cases of burglary.


Where people go to a better life: The Northern Cape

In the Northern Cape Province, the following five areas were highlighted for experiencing the largest number of burglaries:

Northern Cape crime stats


The area with the highest reports and incident rate for residential burglaries was identified as Kimberley with a case rate of 667 burglaries. 

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