Figures suggest South Africans have lost confidence in the police

Staff Writer | May 05, 2019
Low levels of reporting of crime to the police suggest a loss of trust in law enforcement among South Africans.

The number of crimes not reported to the SAPS in 2017/18 can be considered a vote of no confidence in the policy.  

According to Stats SA’s Victims of Crime Survey, only 27.4% of residential burglary incidents were reported to the police in the 2017/18 period, and only 14.1% of residential robbery incidents. Only the most serious crimes such as murder, theft of a motor vehicle and deliberate damaging of dwellings registered a high reporting rate.  

Conversely, active registered private security officers have increased by 353.1% since 1997 compared to an increase of only 36.9% of sworn police officials.  

In terms of crimes experienced by individuals, assault, sexual offences and robbery (excluding home robberies and car hijackings) register a high report rate.  

However, less than half of car hijackings were reported to the police.  Overall, only 34.7% of all crime experienced by individuals was reported, while almost 60.0% of all crime experienced by households went unreported. 
These low levels of reporting suggest that South Africans do not think the police force is capable, competent or trustworthy enough to deal with incidents of crime, or to arrest criminals.   

This should come as no surprise.  A parliamentary reply by police minister Bheki Cele earlier this year revealed that 4 174 members of the police had criminal records for a variety of crimes, including assault, theft, kidnapping and fraud. Furthermore, between 2001/02 and 2016/17, almost 21 000 SAPS firearms went missing or were stolen. 

The implications of this trust deficit are far-reaching. 

While private security spending has grown significantly since the 1990s, those who cannot afford to pay for private security are increasingly tempted to take matters into their own hands.  At least 846 of the 20 336 murders committed in the 2017/18 period were incidents of mob justice.  


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