Cape Town — Murder declined by 3.1% between April 1 last year and March 31 this year, along with declines in a number of other crimes such as attempted murder, assault and common assault, sexual offences and rape, the Minister of Police, Nathi Mthethwa said on Thursday.
Presenting the Crime Statistics for April 1, 2011 to March 31, 2012, Mthethwa said a number of crimes had fallen over the last year, while business robberies, stock theft, theft out of motor vehicles, drug-related crimes and driving under the influence of alcohol all increased.
The decline in murders follows a 6.5% decrease in 2010/11.
Murder has fallen by 27.6% in the last eight years and fell below 16 000 for the first time in 2009/10 when the current administration took office, he said.
Mthethwa said research by the police's Crime Research and Statistics unit revealed that about 65% of murders began as assaults resulting from interpersonal, often alcohol or drug-fuelled, arguments.
Of the remaining percentage of murders, 16% are committed in the commission of other crimes and one percent are gang related.
Mthethwa said the police were therefore encouraged by the continuing decrease in attempted murder (5.2%), assault to do grievous bodily harm (4.2%) and common assault (3.4%).
He said contact crimes - murder, attempted murder, sexual offences, assault to do grievous bodily harm, common assault, aggravated robbery and common robbery - fell by 3.5%.
This follows a fall by an almost 7% decline in contact crimes in 2010/11 and a 35% drop in contact crimes in the last eight years.
All provinces this year experienced declines in contact crime, with the exception of the Free State, Limpopo and the Western Cape.
While sexual offences fell by 3.7%, rape only decreased by 1.9% and more police resources and mechanisms are being put in place, said Mthethwa.
Mthethwa however said rape and sexual assault was a challenging category to police.
"It is also influenced by a reporting behavior. If victims trust the police, then you will get more reporting. So the issue of under-reporting remains a challenge and not just in South Africa, but internationally," said Mthethwa.
The Family Violence, Child Protection and Sexual Offences unit was re-established in 2009 and the unit has helped secure convictions of 10 345 years for criminals under the age of 18.
For victims over the age of 18, the unit helped secure convictions that totaled 10 854 years and 131 life sentences.
Car hijackings decreased by 11.9% over the last financial year, after falling by 23.6% in the previous financial year.
Cash-in-transit heists fell by a massive 37.5%, while bank robberies decreased by 10.3%.
ATM bombings also fell, by almost 35% - from 399 cases in 2010/11 to 251 cases in 2011/12 - after increasing by 62% in 2010/11.
While house robberies fell by almost 2%, business robberies continue to increase and were up by 7.5% - most of these against small businesses.
Mthethwa said the police had finalised a strategy to combat and reduce robberies on small businesses, adding that the Civilian Secretariat of Police would be engaging with relevant parties in the coming weeks to ensure the policy is implemented.
He said while house robberies had fallen by just under 2% - these robberies had fallen by almost 25% over the last seven years.
He urged the public to report any information relating to crimes committed in communities and called on community members to desist from buying and selling stolen goods - including CDs and DVDs and to take part in neighbourhood safety forums.
However stock theft, theft out of motor vehicles and drug-related crimes increased by 1.5%, 4.8% and 15.6% respectively, while driving under the influence of alcohol was up 4.5%.
Mthethwa said the increase in driving under the influence was worrying, as it followed a 2.9% in 2010/11.
He welcomed the National Prosecuting Agency's (NPA) decision to charge people with murder instead of culpable homicide when death resulted from car accidents - when they were under the influence.