South Africa: More Homeowners Arming Themselves as Trust in Police Plummets‚ Study Reveals

Sipho Mabena, The Times Live, February 14, 2017

Information gleaned from the results of the Victims of Crime Survey released in Pretoria on Tuesday‚ between 2014/15 and 2015/16‚ about half of households took physical protection measures of home to protect themselves from crime.

There was an increase of about 2.4 percentage points in the same period among those households who indicated that they took physical protection measures of vehicle.

About 11‚4% of households opted to acquire private security services to protect themselves from crime. There are now 5.5% of households that have since opted to carry a weapon to protect themselves compared to 5.1% In 2011.

The number of households that beefed up security at their residences‚ such as building high walls around their homes and putting razor wires or getting vicious dogs‚ have increased from 49% in 2011 to 51. 2% in 2015/16. The figure was highest 2014/15 at 51.6%.

At 66.9%‚ Western Cape recorded the most households that increased security in their homes‚ followed by Gauteng (65.3%) and Mpumalanga (50.0%). Western Cape also leads the pack in the number of households that opted for physical protection measures of vehicles at 45.8% and Gauteng at 40.6%.

Households in Gauteng (19.4%) and the Western Cape (18.3%) were most likely to hire private security.

Gauteng had the highest percentage of households who carried weapons as a protection measure (7.4%)‚ followed by Western Cape (7.2%).

The results of the survey paint a picture of a society that is increasingly frightened of crime‚ with burglary and home robbery topping the list of the most common and most feared types of crime.

The survey also showed a decline in society’s faith in the police and courts between 2011 and 2015/16‚ with the level of satisfaction with police’s ability to deliver on their mandate declining from an estimated 64.2% in 2011 to 58.8% in 2015/16.

Western Cape was the most severe province when it comes to society’s trust in the police‚ with the level of satisfaction with the police decreasing from 71.3% in 2011 to 57.1% in 2015/16.

More people are feeling unsafe walking alone‚ both during the day or when it is dark‚ with 22.6% households preventing their children from playing outside because of the perceived prevalence of crime in their areas.

The level of despondency in society when it comes to police’s ability to combat or investigate crime is palpable from the results of the survey‚ with people believing that it was pointless to report crime as police could do nothing or they just won’t do anything about it.

“This is an indictment‚ that people have lost hope in what police could do about crime‚” Lehohla said.

The survey also provides evidence of a decline in police visibility during the last five years.

Almost half (41%) of South Africans believe that crime had increased in their areas‚ with the Western Cape again leading the pack at 52.2%‚ followed by Free State at 48.0% and North West at 47.4%.

On a positive note‚ Gauteng (33.6%) and KwaZulu-Natal ( 33.1%) had the highest percentage of households who felt that violent crime decreased during the past three years.

Lehohla said that SA needs to be reminded that the absolute number of crimes has actually declined but said we also know that police visibility in the minds of people has declined.

He said this information was very important in informing how the nature of the discussion around safety and security should be‚ based on these numbers.

“The important use of this is to elevate the quality of discussions with the police and society so that the decisions can be of a better quality. Without data you cannot arrive at a better quality. Yes 2% (crime decrease)‚ moving to 2.5% (decrease) but there are still almost a million households that experience one or other form of crime‚” he lamented.

Lehohla said last time they checked police budget was R30-billion and the public was using about R45-billion to protect themselves.

“The question is‚ there is R75-billion to secure to secure for South Africans to feel safe. Now‚ is R75-billion too much money or too little money? Is it optimally deployed and these are the issues we must ask ourselves and of course if we spend R75-billion how much are we spending on education?‚” Lehohla asked.

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