Murders were reduced during lockdown but now on the rise, seminar hears

21 May 2021 - 07:00
By ernest mabuza AND Ernest Mabuza
A researcher says lockdown regulations from April last year resulted in reduced murders and other crimes, but these crimes are now on the increase. File photo.
Image: ELVIS NTOMBELA A researcher says lockdown regulations from April last year resulted in reduced murders and other crimes, but these crimes are now on the increase. File photo.

The murder rate showed a decrease at the start of the Covid-19 lockdown, but increased slightly when restrictions were relaxed from January this year.

This is according to crime hub manager at the Institute for Security Studies, Lizette Lancaster, at a seminar entitled “crime trends in the time of Covid-19" on Thursday afternoon.

Her presentation was on four crime statistics and focused on violent crimes and the fact that there had been no significant reduction in the violent crime levels during the Covid-19 period.

On murder, Lancaster said there were fluctuations but increases were now starting to emerge.

“The rates have come quite down ... in the first couple of levels, level 5 and level 4. It remained low during level 3 and 2, but the moment level 1 occurred, we started seeing increases,” Lancaster said.

Police statistics showed there were 939 fewer murders in April 2020 compared to April 2019, and 759 fewer murders in May 2020.

However, the statistics showed there were 121 extra murders in September 2020, and 240 more murders in November 2020 when compared to the same months in 2019.

Lancaster said there were substantial increases in the rates of murder in February and March this year compared to the same months in 2020.

Statistics showed there were 200 and 455 more murders recorded in February and March respectively.

Lancaster said there was the same type of trend for carjackings, which showed sustained and alarming increases from September last year to March, with a small dip in January this year.

The same trend could be seen for residential robberies.

“As soon as levels opened up you saw increases and spikes. When we start counting up these figures, we are sitting at levels similar to where we were pre-Covid-19,” Lancaster said.

Lancaster said what was far more disturbing was that in the first three months of the year, 30 police stations — which make up only 2.6% of all stations — recorded 22.5% of all the 4,911 murders during this period.

She said these stations were urban-based and were around Cape Town, Gqeberha (Port Elizabeth), eThekwini and Gauteng.

“Nearly a quarter of murders took place in these 30 areas.”

Lancaster said it was encouraging that during the lockdown, because more people were at home, there had been decreases in property crime.

“However, these are not sustainable because when we start looking at the levels of violence, we see that the levels remain extremely concerning.”

She said though the lockdown, which included movement restrictions, night curfews and the closure of industries, had an affect in the reduction of crime, these restrictions were not sustainable.

“So in the short term these might work but they are not going to solve our violence problem. As a matter of fact, we started seeing increases in violence and that is because the socio-economic strain placed on the society because of the lockdown and its negative affect on jobs and on food security will have a long-term affect.”