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South Africa’s crime stats for the first three months of 2021 – everything you need to know

The South African Police Service has published its latest crime stats, tracking criminal patterns in the country between January to March 2021.

Presenting the statistics, police minister Bheki Cele pointed to an overall decline of 8.5% in contact crimes including assault, sexual offences, common assault and robbery during the quarter, with only two criminal types in this category recording an increase.

These were murder and attempted murder, which recorded an 8.4% and 8.7% increase, respectively.

Cele noted that 4,976 people were killed in the first three months of 2021 – 387 more people killed compared to the corresponding period in the previous financial year.

“The Mpumalanga province recorded the same number of murders as in the corresponding period in the previous financial year. The Mpumalanga province is joined by Limpopo, Free State and Northern Cape in recording decreases in their murder cases,” he said.

“However it is concerning that the Eastern Cape and the Kwa- Zulu Natal provinces recorded double digit increases, standing at 21.5% and 16.9% respectively.”

While all cases of assault decreased by over 9%, there were still over 75,000 cases of common assault and assault with intent to cause grievous bodily harm (GBH) opened with the police between January and March.

In 2,855 incidents of assault GBH, it was confirmed that alcohol was consumed either by the victim or the perpetrator or both, Cele said.

“Over two thousand incidents of Assault GBH took place at either a bar, a night club, a tavern or a shebeen. This doesn’t exclude alcohol being present in parks, beaches and other places of entertainment,” he said.

The Gauteng and Western Cape provinces recorded the highest assault cases. 16,528 incidents of assaults both common and grievous bodily harm were domestic related, which means the victim and perpetrator knew each other.

Taking all stats into account, crime decreased by 14.4% over the quarter. While Cele credited the decrease to more effective policing, it should be noted that the country was also in a higher level of lockdown at the start of the year.


SA crime stats: Q3 2020 vs Q4 2020

Q3 vs Q4 Oct – Dec 2020 Jan – Mar 2021 Change
Contact Crimes 171 764 137 314 -20.1%
Contact-related Crimes 30 989 25 582 -17.4%
Property-related Crimes 99 034 91 223 -7.9%
Other Serious Crimes 97 931 93 801 -4.2%
Total public reported 399 718 347 920 -13.0%
Crime detected as a result of police action 59 800 50 034 -16.3%
Total 459 518 397 954 -13.4%

SA crime stats: Q4 2019 vs Q4 2020

2019 vs 2020 Jan – Mar 2020 Jan – Mar 2021 Change
Contact Crimes 150 132 137 314 -8.5%
Contact-related Crimes 26 959 25 582 -5.1%
Property-related Crimes 115 214 91 223 -20.8%
Other Serious Crimes 104 161 93 801 -9.9%
Total public reported 396 466 347 920 -12.2%
Crime detected as a result of police action 68 658 50 034 -27.1%
Total 465 124 397 954 -14.4%
  • Contact crimes include murder, attempted murder and sexual offences, as well as common assault and robbery.
  • Contact-related crimes include arson and malicious injury to property.
  • Other serious crimes include commercial crime, shop-lifting and all other types of theft – while aggravated robbery includes hijackings, robbery at residences and cash-in-transit heists and bank robberies.
  • Crimes detected as a result of police action cover crimes discovered by active policing, such as road-blocks and raids. Categories covered by this are the illegal possession of firearms, DUI or driving under the influence (of drugs or alcohol); and the use, possession or trade of illegal drugs.

Crime categories

Other key statistics include:

  • Farm attacks: in the first three months of 2021, 11 people were killed in 10 incidents of murder, which occurred in farms and small-holdings. Four of those murdered were farm dwellers, four were farmers or farm owners; two of the victims were farm employees, while one was a night guard at a farm workshop.
  • Rape: While there has been a decline in sexual offences cases, 9,518 people were allegedly raped between January and March. A sample of 6,893 of the rape incidents revealed that 4,130 of such incidents took place at the home of the victim or the home of the alleged rapist.
  • The Eastern Cape’s Lusikisiki police station recorded the highest incidents of rape, overtaking the Inanda station, which has sadly held the number one position for some years.
  • Hijacking: Aggravated robberies such as carjacking increased by almost 5%. Carjacking took place mostly in formal and non-formal residence in the country’s townships followed by suburbs in urban areas.

Biggest increase to biggest decrease in crimes Q4 2020/21

Category Jan – Mar 2020 Jan – Mar 2021 Change
Truck hijacking 284 354 +24.6%
Commercial crime 20 193 22 558 +11.7%
Attempted murder 4 216 4 582 +8.7%
Murder 4 589 4 976 +8.4%
Robbery at residential premises 4 916 5 288 +7.6%
Carjacking 4 303 4 513 +4.9%
Robbery at non-residential premises 4 741 4 872 +2.8%
Bank robbery 0 1 +1 case
Sexual offences discovered as a result of police action 2 377 2 335 -1.8%
Sexual offences 12 627 12 133 -3.9%
Malicious damage to property 26 106 24 850 -4.8%
Robbery with aggravating circumstances 33 404 30 768 -7.9%
Common assault 42 866 38 889 -9.3%
Assault with the intent to inflict grievous bodily harm 40 168 36 417 -9.3%
Robbery of cash in transit 47 42 -10.6%
Stock theft 6 853 6 089 -11.1%
Illegal possession of firearms and ammunition 3 607 3 184 -11.7%
Arson 853 732 -14.2%
All theft not mentioned elsewhere 69 556 59 646 -14.2%
Drug-related crime 43 344 35 932 -17.1%
Theft of motor vehicle or motorcycle 11 163 9 240 -17.2%
Burglary at non-residential premises 18 384 15 215 -17.2%
Shoplifting 14 412 11 597 -19.5%
Burglary at residential premises 51 004 40 568 -20.5%
Common robbery 12 262 9 549 -22.1%
Theft out of or from motor vehicle 27 810 20 111 -27.7%
Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs 19 330 8 583 -55.6%

Read: Security guards vs police officers in South Africa


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