How under-reporting crime affects the people of South Africa

Below is an informative article shared by the Xpanda Security group from

It is important that we take note of the contents of the article below and work together to help improve the security issues faced in South Africa today. There are varying reasons why crimes are not reported. To find out more, continue reading…

“Sadly, the details of many crimes committed across South Africa never make it to the police, distorting the true picture of crime in the country.

And while this is certainly not a problem unique to South Africa, it points to a number of issues that we need to look at addressing, like restoring faith in our courts and the South African Police Service.

According to Lizette Lancaster, the manager of the Crime and Justice Hub at the Governance, Crime and Justice Division of the Institute for Security Studies (ISS), the reasons for under-reporting cited by South Africans are also similar to those mentioned internationally.

“Many people don’t report the crimes they are victims of because they blame themselves for the incident (e.g. I should not have been walking out late at night); they fear stigmatization (e.g. fear that other people will blame the victim); or they fear reprisals from the perpetrator, who may live near the victim,” she writes.

“Others don’t report crime because the incident may have been highly traumatic and the victim chooses to move on with his/her life rather than relive the crime by reporting it to the police. On the other hand, some victims may think that the incident was simply not serious enough to report to the police (e.g. petty theft).”

Senior ISS researcher Johan Burger explains that the under-reporting of crime has an extremely negative impact:

  • Unreported crime will not be investigated and means that the perpetrators will keep on doing crime and harm others. Reported crime allows the police to search for and arrest criminals, preventing them from continuing with their criminal activity, thus protecting others from a similar fate
  • Reported crime enables the police to determine “hotspot” areas where they can implement preventative and focused policing (e.g. increased visibility, targeted patrols, etc.)
  • Reported crime enables the police to determine trends and tendencies (through crime statistics) that also inform their policing strategies
Victims of Crime Survey 2014/15, Statistics SA

Victims of Crime Survey 2014/15, Statistics SA

“Under-reporting crime could seriously impact on the type and amount of resources allocated to deal with a particular crime threat,” says Burger.

He agrees that poor public perception of the police force also contributes to the under-reporting of crime and that restoring faith in the police and the South African courts is a priority.

Lancaster adds that strong leadership is required from heads of public and private organisations that have influence over implementing recommendations laid out in the National Development Plan.

“Only real, consistent and grassroots improvements in both policing and court services will bring about the trust and support our Justice Cluster leadership craves from South Africans,” she says.

According to recent statistics from a Victims of Crime survey conducted by Statistics South Africa, we have seen a decrease in the reporting of crime over the past few years. As the graph shows, home robberies reported increased after 2010, but decreased again in the 2014/15 period, along with a large number of other crimes.

National Home Security Month spokesperson Hayley Elwen says it is critical that the police know about any crime that occurs.

“Without knowing about these incidents, it becomes tougher to effectively manage crime or to police areas that may need additional policing. Understanding where and when crime happens means the police can set the right resources in the right areas, and plan more carefully around possible target areas.

“We all, as individuals and communities, need to be working together with neighbours, with security organisations and response companies, as well as with the police to effectively manage crime and improve safety.”

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