South African crime statistics need to be put into context | Letters | World news


Like all crime statistics, South Africa’s need to be treated with caution (South Africa ‘like a war zone’ after surge in murders, 12 September).

Yes, murder rates are about the most reliable indicator of levels of violence. And, yes, a 7% increase in murder in 2017-18 over the previous year as part of a continuing upward trend evident since 2011-12 is worrying. But a sense of both perspective and context is needed too.

Last year’s murder rate of 35.2 per 100,000 people is up from a low of 30.1 per 100,000 in 2011. But it is dwarfed by the figure of 78 per 100,000 recorded back in 1993, the year before South Africa’s first democratic elections.  

When it comes to other forms of crime, such as housebreaking, the data is much less reliable – largely because of hard-to-detect…

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