Top security companies confirmed they have seen a decline in burglaries, theft, and armed robberies since the coronavirus lockdown started.
When President Cyril Ramaphosa announced that a national lockdown would be implemented, starting on 27 March, many people wondered what the impact on crime would be.
There was a particular concern around businesses which would be left deserted, and therefore vulnerable, during the lockdown.
Police Minister Bheki Cele predicted the 21-day lockdown would result in a reduction in crime across South Africa, as the restriction of movement would also apply to criminals.
This would make it challenging for them to move around to perform robberies or other crimes.
Cele added that the “web spun” by the police and military, which includes roadblocks, will catch both people who move around without permission and criminals.
Reduction of crime confirmed
Two of South Africa’s top private security companies, Fidelity Services Group and RSS Security Services, both confirmed there has been a reduction in crime in South Africa.
RSS CEO Brett Fisher told MyBroadband that burglaries, theft, and armed robberies have decreased in residential suburbs and estates after the lockdown.
Fisher said more people are staying at home because of the lockdown, which is one of the main reasons for the decrease in criminal activity.
While serious crime decreased, Fisher said they are receiving more complaints about neighbours not getting on, excessive noise, and people not staying indoors.
He added that they also received complaints about domestic violence during the lockdown.
Fidelity CEO Wahl Bartmann echoed these views, saying they have received a lower-than-normal number of reported incidents.
“Specifically, we are seeing a slight decline in house robberies, house break-ins, and armed robberies,” said Bartmann.
He said apart from people being at home, there is also an increased awareness in suburbs – with criminals less likely to be out during the SAPS and SANDF’s increased presence.
He did say that criminals are still taking chances, however, and crimes are still taking place.
Big decrease in violent crime
On Sunday morning, Cele revealed that a year-on-year analysis of South Africa’s crime statistics showed a big decrease in violent crime during the lockdown.
- Murder cases declined from 326 to 94.
- Rape cases declined from 699 to 101.
- Assault cases with intention to inflict grievous bodily harm declined from 2,673 to 456.
- Car and truck hijacking, business robberies, and house robberies declined from 8,853 to 2,098.
One exception is domestic abuse and gender-based violence, where the number of complaints remained high.
Businesses not being targeted
Additionally, Bartmann said they have not seen an increase in criminals targeting businesses or office parks now that they are closed.
Fisher added that they have not seen a spike in business robberies, but warned it is still early days and criminals are no doubt starting to identify the easy targets.
“There has certainly been consistent crime, especially in commercial suburbs where the companies are not actually in a business park,” said Fisher.
“Business parks are certainly the safer option, provided the access control and perimeter are secure,” he said.
A potential scam to watch out for is criminals pretending to be representatives from the Department of Health to gain access to people’s homes, said Bartmann.
These criminals, who are dressed in uniforms and carry official-looking documentation, are capitalising on concerns about the coronavirus outbreak.
Fisher said this is a consequence of criminals adapting to the COVID-19 lockdown, which creates vulnerabilities related to access control in estates and homes.
He added that cyber security is another real risk, and companies need to make sure they have been through the correct audits and taken the necessary steps to protect their businesses and staff.
It is still early days and only time will tell which new criminal trends will appear over the coming weeks and months, said Fisher.