South Africa: The Big Difference Between People's Experience of Crime and the Official Record


If there's one take-away from the 2018/19 Victims of Crime Survey released by Statistics South Africa on Thursday, it is the disjunction between people's experience of crime, what is reported to the police and what ultimately makes its way into the official record. The gap is often significant.

Looking at what South African households told Statistics South Africa about their experience of housebreaking is perhaps the most straightforward illustration of the gap between experience of crime and the official police record.

The 2018/19 Victims of Crime Survey noted 1,354,196 incidents of housebreaking affecting 969,567 households across South Africa.

About 44.4% of households reported their experiences of housebreaking to police, who would have recorded it as "burglary at residential premises". With another 3.8% having reported some of their housebreaking experience to police, Statistics SA points out that at least 467,599 households would have officially reported housebreakings.

But the SAPS crime statistics show only 220,865 officially recorded housebreaking cases for the 2018/19 financial year.

So what happened?

It could be police dissuade people from officially opening a case. It could be people believe they reported the crime because they went to a police station, even if no paperwork was ever completed. It...

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