While the levels of certain crimes have dropped since 1994, increases in armed robbery, hijackings, sexual assault and drug related crimes have made it hard to determine if South Africa is a safer country, the South African Institute of Race Relations (SAIRR) said on Wednesday.
“That is difficult to answer, because different trends run in different directions,” SAIRR CEO Frans Cronje told reporters in Johannesburg.
An SAIRR report on crime trends between 1994/95 and 2013/14 found while the rate of crimes like murder, attempted murder and assault had decreased, drug related crime rose from 118 per 100 000 to 492, and driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol increased from 66 to 132.
Sexual offences rose from 115 to 118 per 100 000.
However, the figures for the daily incidence of some crimes showed a stark picture.
There were 172 daily incidents of sexual assault – up from 123 – while the incidents of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs increased from 70 to 191.
Drug related crimes increased from 126 to 714 incidents a day.
Cronje said the increase could be due to effective policing.
“[With the drugs figures] this also might be because of changes in drug use and behaviour… changes in living standards might also be a contributing factor.”
A decline in stock theft figures could conversely be related to collapsed farmer confidence in the police.
Cronje said while the murder rate had decreased, a slight recent increase, coupled with a possible increase in the new statistics the police would release on Tuesday, could break the trend.
The murder rate per 100 000 across the provinces found the Eastern Cape had the highest level at 52. Gauteng had 26 and the Western Cape 48.
“Gauteng has a reputation for being the most dangerous place in the country, but we are on the other end of the scale. The Western Cape is becoming one of the most dangerous provinces in the country,” Cronje said.
He credited this to the “migration” of criminals to the province.
“Are we pushing criminals into the Western Cape?” Cronje asked.
Internationally, South Africa’s murder rate per 100 000 people was at 31, while a country with gun problems and mass shootings like the US only had a murder rate of 4.7 per 100 000.