Factsheets & Guides 

FACTSHEET: South Africa’s 2014/15 murder and robbery crime statistics

Researched by Institute for Security Studies

This factsheet provides an overview of murder and robbery trends between 1 April 2014 and 31 March 2015 as recorded by the South African Police Service. The Institute for Security Studies is using the recalculated figures released by the South African Police Service on 29 September 2015 for the years 2004/05 to 2014/15. The Institute for Security Studies takes no responsibility for the accuracy of these statistics.

A note about SA’s crime statistics

On the day of their release, these statistics were already at least six months out of date. That means that the current crime situation, particularly at the local level, could be very different from that described by these statistics. For a guide on how to interpret crime statistics see the Africa Check Factsheet. For more factsheets, infographics, interactive maps, analysis, and graphics on crime visit the Institute for Security Studies’ Crime Hub.

Murder has increased

Murder is an important crime to monitor because, unlike other crimes, the number reported is probably close to the actual number committed. The murder rate is one indicator of a country’s stability – the higher it is, the less stable a country is likely to be.

Murder is defined in South African law as the unlawful and intentional killing of another human being.

  • The murder rate has increased for a third consecutive year after it more than halved for the first 18 years after democracy.
  • Every day, 49 people are killed and 48 people are victims of attempted murder.
  • Incidents of murder increased by 4.6% from 17,023 murders in 2013/14 to 17,805 in 2014/15. Two more people were murdered per day than in the previous year, and six more per day than in 2011/12.
  • Using Statistics South Africa’s 2014 mid-year estimates, the murder rate in 2014/15 was 33 per 100,000, up from 32.1 in the last reporting period.
  • South Africa’s murder rate is more than five times higher than the 2013 global average of 6.2 murders per 100,000.
  • Attempted murder cases increased by 3.2% from 16,989 in 2013/14 to 17,537 in 2014/15.


Robbery has increased

Robberies occur when perpetrators threaten or use violence in order to steal belongings. Common robbery is defined as the unlawful and intentional forceful removal and appropriation of movable tangible property belonging to another. When perpetrators use a weapon or there are “aggravating circumstances”, it is recorded as “aggravated robbery”. The police refer to robbery as “violent property crimes”.

  • Most types of robbery increased over the past year.
  • “Aggravated” robbery, which is the most serious kind, increased from 118,963 cases in 2013/14 to 129,045 cases (by 8.5%) in 2014/15.
  • The aggravated robbery rate increased from 224.5 per 100,000 people in 2013/14 to 239 per 100,000 people in 2014/15. This is an increase of 6.4%.
  • Increases in the sub-categories of aggravated robbery are as follows:
    • Every day on average 207 cases of the street robbery were reported to the police. Street robberies increased by around 9.7% compared to the previous year.
    • On average 56 households were attacked each day in 2014/15. House robberies occur when armed gangs confront people while they are in their homes. House robbery increased by 5.2% to 20,281 incidents. For the first time, this crime passed the 20,000 marks.
    • An average of 53 businesses (including schools and churches) per day or 19,170 in the year reported being robbed in 2014/15. Compared to 2013/14, business robbery increased by 3.2%. This crime has consistently increased in the past 10 years. It is 421% higher now than in 2004/05.
    • Vehicle hijacking increased by 14.2% to 12,773 incidents. This means that 35 motor vehicles were hijacked every day on average in 2014/15. This is of particular concern given that organised crime syndicates probably commit most of these crimes.
    • Truck hijacking increased by 29.1% from 991 incidents in 2013/14 to 1,279 incidents in 2014/15. Organised crime syndicates also generally perpetrate this crime, which together with the increase in vehicle hijacking suggests that organised crime is on the rise.
    • After seven years of consecutive decreases, cash-in-transit heists decreased from 145 in 2012/13 and 2013/14 to 119 in 2014/15. Bank robberies decreased from 21 robberies to 17 in 2014/15.
  • The number of “common” robberies increased from 53,505 cases in 2013/14 to 54,927 cases (by 2.7%) in 2014/15. Common robberies are typically recorded when the police receive reports such as “smash and grab” incidents against vehicles, or when criminals grab handbags or items from people walking on the streets.

Street robbery primarily affects the poor and typically occurs as people travel to and from work, school, or shops. In the years when street robbery decreased, other more serious robberies namely carjacking, house robbery, and business robbery (which the police call the “trio crimes”) increased substantially.

According to the police, improved visible policing did reduce street robberies. The increased visibility was the result of the almost 70,000 additional police officials who were hired between 2002/03 and 20011/12. However, the police believe that the greater number of officers on the streets contributed towards robbers targeting houses, businesses, and vehicles instead.

This fact sheet was prepared by Gareth Newham, Lizette Lancaster, Johan Burger, and Chandre Gould, Institute for Security Studies.


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