South Africa’s move to an adjusted level 1 lockdown and the upcoming festive season means South Africans should brace for an enormous surge in crime, especially cash-in-transit (CIT) robberies, experts have warned.
Data published by the South African Banking Risk Information Centre (Sabric) shows that CIT robberies across the country decreased significantly due to the level 5 lockdown in April and May of 2020. Once restrictions were lifted however, this type of crime increased again by 22% as criminals could move with fewer restrictions and fear of roadblocks.
Annie Kok, a research assistant at the UCT Centre of Criminology, told eNCA that the number of criminal incidents increased by more than 50% in Q3 and Q4 2020, following a similar easing of restrictions. Kok said that the only way this can be combatted is through sophisticated intelligence, actionable strategies and coordination of all stakeholders involved.
Whal Bartmann, the Fidelity Services Group chief executive, said that the company is taking steps to prepare for increasing incidents, including additional backup forces and air support. Bartmann added that Fidelity has a strong relationship with the South African Police Services (SAPS) and runs operations alongside them.
A further jump in crime could be bleak news after South Africa reported a shocking increase in crime statistics in Q1 2021/2022, with a significant increase in cases reported across several crime categories. Police minister Bheki Cele said that the double-digit increase in most crime categories was attributable to the adjusted lockdown levels and distorted crime trends.
The police minister said that while the country had seen a ‘holiday from crime’ during the higher level 5, 4 and 3 lockdowns, the move to lighter restrictions had led to ‘exaggeratedly high’ crime levels.
“While we will not sweep the high and unnatural figures under the carpet, we will instead bring to the fore a holistic picture of comparing the 2021/2022 Q1 crime figures to a ‘normal period’ two years ago where there was no lockdown.”
The increases, therefore, reflect the difference between Q1 2018/19 and Q1 2021/22, the minister explained.
Contact crimes such as murder, attempted murder, sexual offences and all categories of assault registered a 60.6% increase, compared to the corresponding period of the previous financial year.
Cash-in-transit heists increased by 142.1% year-on-year, from 19 reported incidents in April-June 2020 to 46 incidents in April-June 2021.