Cape Town has twice the murder rate of Johannesburg

Cape Town, danger lurks here...
Cape Town, danger lurks here…

According to an analysis of the latest crime stats by the Istitute for Security Studies, the murder rate in Cape Town is almost twice as high as that of Johannesburg.

Lizette Lancaster, a researcher at the Institute, writes: “Between April 2011 and March 2012, police recorded more murders in Cape Town than in Johannesburg and Pretoria combined. This means that, taking population into account, Cape Town residents are 1,8 times more likely to be murdered than Johannesburg residents. Yet this information is potentially misleading because the likelihood of being a crime victim depends in large part on race, gender, age, economic profile and where in a city a person lives.”

For example, almost two-thirds of the Cape Town murders took place in just ten of the 60 police station precincts in the city, according to an analysis of crime hotspots by the Institute for Security Studies (ISS). For years, the Coloured area of Mitchells Plain has experienced the highest violence and property crime rates in the country.

Black areas in Cape Town show ‘abnormally high murder rates’

Although surpassed by Coloured (mixed-race) areas regarding general violent crime, black townships in Cape Town showed the highest murder rates. According to Lizette Lancaster, “Nyanga, Khayelitsha, Gugulethu and Harare remain the most murderous in the peninsula, according to an analysis that takes population size into account. These areas have experienced abnormally high murder rates for more than a decade.”

Similarly, a countrywide analysis of police precinct statistics suggests that income levels matter. Residents in low-income areas are far more likely to be murdered than their middle- and high-income counterparts. Half of South Africa’s murders occurred in only 13% of police precincts (or in 143 out of 1 127).

The focus tends to fall on South Africa’s national murder rate, which is almost five times higher than the global average of 6,9 murders per 100 000 people. However, about 13% of police precincts in South Africa had lower murder rates than this, including affluent areas such as Brooklyn (Pretoria), Garsfontein (Pretoria), Camps Bay, Claremont, Rondebosch (Cape Town), Edenvale and Linden (Gauteng). Over 10% of South African policing precincts – more than 115 stations – experienced no murders, while three in four murders occurred in just a quarter of the country’s police precincts. Suburbs like Sandton, Parkview (Johannesburg), Durban North, Table View and Woodstock (Cape Town) had a murder rate of just under 10 per 100 000 people.

Although murder is often used as the main indicator to support arguments that South Africa is a violent country, it makes up only 2,5% of all violent crime. While there were 16 259 murders in 2012/13, over 600 000 other violent crimes were also reported to the police, including attempted murder, rape, robbery and assault.

Most murder victims are young black men

A vast majority of the murders that take place daily do not make the news. They happen in areas where crime and violence are the norm, and where residents already feel marginalised and forgotten. The majority of murders are neither premeditated nor committed as part of a crime, but occur when an argument leads to physical assault. Research shows that most victims are killed by acquaintances, friends or family members during disputes fuelled by alcohol or drug abuse.

Victimisation surveys, police docket surveys and mortuary surveillance studies reveal that most South African murder victims are young black men. These studies also reveal that most murdered women are killed by their intimate partners, and that men are six times more likely to be killed than women. However, violence affects all South Africans, and the resultant trauma has lasting physical, emotional and often financial consequences.

Read Lizette Lancaster’s entire report here.