/ 8 May 2008

Most think crime in SA is on the increase

Although crime levels were lower, most South Africans thought crime was on the increase and had lower confidence in the police, a survey released by the Institute for Security Studies (ISS) has revealed.

Speaking at a seminar in Pretoria on Thursday, senior research fellow at the ISS, Antoinette Louw, said although crime levels in the country were lower since 1998 and 2003, most of the 4 500 people surveyed thought crime was on the increase, particularly with regard to house breaking.

”Since 1998 house breaking and burglary has been the most common crimes that South Africans report,” said Louw.

According to the 2007 national victim survey conducted during October to November last year, 81% of people reported house breaking incidents to the police compared to the 2003 survey showing that only 57% of people reported house breaking.

”The survey shows that the crime that the public worries about the most … that they fear the most [is] housebreaking. I think that is our main area of concern,” she said.

The study found that 85% of Indian people thought crime was on the increase, while only 63% of whites, 57% of coloureds and 54% of black people thought crime was on the increase.

Only 22% of white people said crime had decreased in the past four years.

”Indian respondents tend to be much more fearful, much more concerned about crime and more critical of government,” she said.

On the issue of aggravated robbery, senior researcher at the ISS Dr Johan Burger said the issue was a ”real challenge” with street robbery being on the increase at 70%. He also said that the ISS had noted an increase in ATM attacks — especially those located in townships.

Bribery a growth area

On the issue of corruption — where people paid bribes to government officials — 32% of people said they paid bribes in the form of money for traffic offences. This in comparison to 27% of people who paid bribes in the 2003 survey.

Traffic fines and driver’s licenses were growth areas for bribery.

On the question of whether crime levels had changed over the past four years, most people thought crime was on the increase.

Fifty-seven percent of those asked in 2007 thought crime had risen, compared to 53% in the 2003 survey.

”The interesting thing about all the perception data is that even though we know that crime has gone down, most South Africans still think crime is going up. Levels of public confidence are not good,” Louw said.

People in Gauteng were found to be the most negative about crime. Greed was found to be the most likely reason why people thought others committed crimes.

The punitive response to crime was also gaining popularity among people. Thirty-four percent of respondents were in favour of punitive action compared to 15% in 2003.

”I think it’s a reflection of frustration. said Anthony Altbeter, an independent consultant.

Black and coloured people said they were likely to see police officers on duty.

The public was slightly less satisfied with policing compared to 2003.

In 2007, 49% said the police were doing a good job, compared to 52% in 2003.

On the issue of what the people were doing to protect themselves against crime, 60% had done nothing.

Louw said most who did do something about crime secured their homes and were likely to in the middle or higher income groups. – Sapa