‘The ones in the pile were the ones going down’: The reliability of violent crime statistics

  • David Bruce Bruce
Keywords: crime statistics, South Africa, SAPS, crime, violent crimes

Abstract

Following an announcement in 2004 by the South African government that in the coming years it would endeavour to reduce violent crime by seven to ten per cent per annum, total levels of violent crime dropped by 25 per cent over the next five years. However, a closer look at the crime statistics over this period reveals a number of peculiarities that require explanation. In recent years there have also been numerous press reports on the manipulation of crime statistics that have highlighted the existence of incentives within the SAPS not to record violent crime. This article argues that the identified peculiarities in crime statistics can be understood as linked to non-recording, which is shaped by a hierarchy of violent crime in which some categories of crime are viewed as important while others are viewed as unimportant. This implies that current violent crime statistics cannot be relied on as an indicator of trends in violent crime.

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Published
2010-03-08
Section
Research articles