Significant drop in crime under lockdown: Bheki Cele

Domestic violence cases among reported crimes showing decline

22 May 2020 - 16:40 By Aphiwe Deklerk
Police minister Bheki Cele on Friday said there had been a significant decrease in crime during the country's lockdown.
Police minister Bheki Cele on Friday said there had been a significant decrease in crime during the country's lockdown.
Image: GCIS

Police minister Bheki Cele has announced a big decline in crime under the lockdown.

Speaking during a press briefing on Friday afternoon, Cele said serious and violent crime had shown a decline, even while "organised crime syndicates" had moved into the illicit alcohol and cigarette trade.

Police minister Bheki Cele updated South Africans on the state of law enforcement so far during the lockdown on May 22 2020. Cele said organised crime syndicates have used the lockdown to expand their illegal trade with R2.67m in “contraband” items confiscated on SA's borders since the beginning of the lockdown.

“In relation to serious and violent crime, we announced in April that there was a dramatic decline in, especially, the contact crime category, which includes domestic violence, as well as in trio crimes of house and business robberies and hijackings.

“Again, this time around, we have compared crime since the lockdown to crime over the same period in 2019. While the figures remain low, comparatively speaking, we have noted slight increases in some crime categories,” said Cele.

He said the reasons behind the numbers were yet to be determined.

Comparing the periods of March 29 to May 21 2019 to March 27 to May 2020, Cele said:

  • Murder was down by 63.9%, from 2,970 cases to 1,072 cases;
  • Rape was down 82%, from 5,350 to 919 cases;
  • Attempted murder down 56%, from 2,571 to 1,132 cases;
  • Assault with the intent to cause grievous bodily harm (GBH) was down 80.4%, from 22,144 to 4,348 cases; and
  • Robbery with aggravating circumstances down 63.3%, from 14,822 to 5,397 cases.

He said car hijacking was down by 70%, robbery at non-residential premises declined by  60%, and robbery at residential premises was down by 49%.

“When we compare incidents of cash-in-transit robberies during the lockdown to the same period on 2019, the number has dropped remarkably from 26 to only four incidents,” said Cele.

He said although the lockdown figures for serious and violent crime were still lower in comparison to 2019, police had noted an increase in hijackings, especially when comparing the first two weeks of the lockdown - when SA was under level 5 - to the first two weeks of level 4 lockdown restrictions.

“Most hijacking incidents were recorded in Gauteng, followed by Western Cape, KwaZulu-Natal and Eastern Cape,” said Cele.

He said there was also a significant decrease in the number of reported gender-based violence cases.

"For purposes of measuring the impact of the lockdown on homes and families, we use cases of domestic violence. With domestic violence, we refer to incidents such as sexual assault, rape, pointing of [a] firearm, murder, attempted murder, assault and assault GBH, kidnapping and, in such instances, the victim and suspect usually have or had a relationship.

"As I have mentioned before, some of the suspects in such cases are uncles, exes, wives and girlfriends, husbands, fathers, partners, siblings and so on.

"If we compare the period March 27 to May 21 2019 with the lockdown period from March 27 to May 19 2020, there is a sharp decrease from 21,033 in 2019 to 6,651 cases of domestic violence during the lockdown, giving us a percentage decrease of 68.4%.

"The numbers are in reference to reported cases. Therefore, there is a possibility that there could be victims at home who have not or cannot report to the police for different reasons," he said.