What to expect from the 2016/2017 crime statistics

Authors:
Dr. Chris De Kock, Analyst: Crime, Violence and Crowd Behaviour
Dr. Johan Burger, Independent Consultant
Date:
26 September 2017

If the South African Police Service released the last and fourth quarter (January-March 2017) crime statistics during the first quarter of the 2017/2018 financial year as they announced during June 2016, it would not have been necessary to try and predict what the statistics would look like when they are released in the next two weeks. These authors are not keen to predict in any case. But this time of the year, everybody starts to predict after a year’s wait for the crime statistics - which is, in any case, the property of the people/public of South Africa. But at least by releasing the first trimester (first three quarters - April to December 2016) crime statistics in March 2017, they made prediction much easier.

De Kock, as the previous Head of the Crime Information Analysis Centre of SAPS (1995-2013), compiled the national crime statistics for 18 years, which was then released to the public (mainly in September, following the financial year-end). Upon receiving the crime statistics of the first three quarters of a year to compile internal quarterly reports, De Kock could predict what the annual crime picture would look like with great accuracy.
It is highly unlikely that the crime statistics of three months can significantly change the statistics of nine months.

The role crime intelligence plays in preventing crime

It should be noted that this prediction only includes the more policeable crime trends. Policing revolves around three basic functions: crime prevention, crime detection and crime intelligence, which underlies the prevention and detection functions.
In any society, especially one with very high levels of serious crime, crime should first be prevented but if it occurs the perpetrator should be detected and prosecuted (prosecution as such will hopefully also become prevention through deterrence).
Crime intelligence (in its broadest meaning of both overt and covert intelligence – from crime mapping and docket analysis to undercover projects) forms the basis for both prevention and detection.
Without crime mapping, peak times, modus operandi information, environmental scans and linkage analysis prevention is nearly impossible and the pressure on detection will become so unbearable that it may collapse.

Distinguishing between more policeable and less policeable crimes

There are some categories or subcategories of crime where all three of the functions can be used optimally and there are others where, at most, detection can be applied. Thus, in some cases, crimes can be prevented, in others, it can merely be detected - and this even applies to murder and rape. This means that even crimes such as murder and rape have varying degrees of being policeable.

More policeable vs less policeable rapes

For example, if the boyfriend of a woman with a child from a previous marriage/relationship rapes the mother’s 11-year-old child, the police could, in all probability, not prevent this terrible crime and that they, in all probability, did not have any intelligence that this crime would happen. But, where a third rape with similar modus operandi happen at the same time of the day in the same piece of veld/subway, it becomes a preventable crime. The aforementioned facts, known to the police because of their own analysis, is then regarded as intelligence.

More policeable vs less policeable murders

Murders (also sometimes called social murders) between perpetrators and victims that are known to each other (e.g. intimate partners, family members, friends, acquaintances, colleagues) that often starts off as arguments (about for example money, alcohol, drugs, sex, and or family matters), especially where too much alcohol and/or drugs were consumed, which develop into a physical fight/assault and ends up in a murder, are much less policeable than murders which result from robberies, gang conflict, taxi conflict, vigilantism, hate crimes like xenophobia, and homophobia etc.

Crime categories

In South Africa, crime categories are based on the legal definitions/parameters of the common law and most of our crime categories like murder, attempted murder, rape, and aggravated robbery are not broken down into subcategories, which are operationally user-friendly. The only crime category which was broken down to operationally useful and relatively pure subcategories over the past two decades is aggravated robbery which was broken down into the following subcategories:
  • Carjacking
  • Truck hijacking
  • Robbery of cash-in-transit (CIT robberies)
  • Bank robbery
  • Robbery at residential premises (house robbery)
  • Robbery at non-residential premises (mostly business robbery)
A seventh subcategory, namely street/public robbery can be deducted from aggravated robbery by subtracting the above six from the main category.

Predictions

In the table of predictions below only relatively pure, more policeable crime categories and subcategories in the case of aggravated robberies and property-related crime are used. Murder and attempted murder are included in the predictions because the police’s own analysis indicates that up to nearly 50% of these cases are not social anymore and are indeed more policeable. Murder and attempted murder are also the most serious crimes, in the sense that it involves the loss of life or limbs, and deeply impacts the psyche of the nation.
Rape and assault are also very serious, but the indications are that these crimes are mostly social in nature and thus less policeable. It is extremely difficult to predict and explain increases/decreases and fluctuations in less policeable crimes because there are just too many variables involved.
It is also important to focus attention on those crimes which can be prevented and reduced by policing agencies since these institutions’ functions are to protect everybody that is within the borders of the country and to stand between them and death, injury, and loss of property.

If a police service cannot at least prevent serious, more policeable crime to increase and to systematically reduce it in a country with exceptionally high levels of serious violent crime, serious questions have to be asked about the necessity of having a police service in the first place.

These analysts, utilising their vast experience of crime analysis, used the first trimester (April to December 2016) increases/decreases to project the final 2016/2017 crime statistics in the table below. The first trimester increases and decreases are rounded off to full percentages and used as if they are the final figures.

Predicted increases/decreases in more policeable crime during 2016/2017


More policeable crime % Decreases/increases
Murder 0.0
Attempted murder -1.0
Common robbery -1.0
Aggravated robbery 6.0
Street/public robbery 5.0
Carjacking 15.0
House robbery (robbery at residential premises) 5.0
Business robbery 7.0
Burglary at business premises 1.0
Burglary at residential premises -1.0
Theft of motor vehicle -1.0
Theft out of and from motor vehicle -1.0
Stock-theft 2.0
 
So, if the trimester release is taken as a basis for prediction of the 2016/2017 crime statistics, it seems that, when it comes to the more policeable crimes the aggravated robbery sub-trends like carjacking, house robbery and business robbery will have increased significantly while the property related crime, where the victim is not present, will have remained stable with marginal decreases/increases.

Murder and attempted murder is indicated in the above table as also stable, with no increase or decrease in murder and only a marginal decrease in attempted murder. As already indicated, these two categories, which include a mix of more and less policeable murders and attempted murders, are included because of their importance. Any change in these two trends (stabilisation, increase, and decrease) are very difficult to interpret. It should be emphasised that the stabilisation in murder could very well be as a result of a decrease in social murders with a similar size increase in more policeable murders like those as a result of robbery and vigilantism. The two will then cancel each other out and produce a 0%.

The authors' experience is that, when the statistics are finalised after the close of the financial year and a redraw of the whole financial years statistics is done, quite a few murders can be added to the murder category, which was originally registered as attempted murder but in the meantime the victims had died and the attempted murder was cancelled and a murder registered. This can often lead to a situation where the current 0% may increase marginally to 1% and even 2%.