News / Africa

South African Crime Falls as Security Firms Flourish

A private security guard stands outside of an ATM machine in downtown Cape Town, South Africa, June 9, 2010.
A private security guard stands outside of an ATM machine in downtown Cape Town, South Africa, June 9, 2010.
— Violent crime has dropped in South Africa while the country’s private security industry has flourished. Experts say the sector likely will continue to thrive into the forseeable future, unless there is a basic, unexpected overall change in society.

Ask the average non-South African what comes to mind when they think of the country, and among the answers may be “murder capital of the world.”
​ OpenTravel.com lists Cape Town among the five most dangerous cities in the world, along with Mogadishu and New Orleans.

But Hamadziripi Tamukamoyo, a crime researcher at the Institute for Security Studies in Pretoria, said there is a common misperception that crime is rampant everywhere in South Africa, especially in the economic capital of Johannesburg.

“I think there is this sort of anomaly that people think Guateng [Province], where Johannesburg is, the murder capital of the world. That is not the case," said Tamukamoyo. "You might actually find 15 percent of police stations in S.A. account for 80 percent of murders. There are specific areas that have got high murder rates.”

Graph of South African security officers, in relation to crime levels (click to expand)Graph of South African security officers, in relation to crime levels (click to expand)
x
Graph of South African security officers, in relation to crime levels (click to expand)
Graph of South African security officers, in relation to crime levels (click to expand)

Not only is violent crime isolated to certain areas, over the past decade it has dropped significantly. In its latest report in September, the South African Police Service said since 2003, the murder rate has dropped 28 percent, attempted murder is down 55 percent and assault is down 32 percent.

A security hut on a street in Parkhurst, Johannesburg, South Africa, October 2012. Many neighborhoods have a security guard posted on their street at all times. (P. Cox/VOA)A security hut on a street in Parkhurst, Johannesburg, South Africa, October 2012. Many neighborhoods have a security guard posted on their street at all times. (P. Cox/VOA)
x
A security hut on a street in Parkhurst, Johannesburg, South Africa, October 2012. Many neighborhoods have a security guard posted on their street at all times. (P. Cox/VOA)
A security hut on a street in Parkhurst, Johannesburg, South Africa, October 2012. Many neighborhoods have a security guard posted on their street at all times. (P. Cox/VOA)
Yet during that same time period, South Africans have become more reliant on private security.

Stock analyst Peter Armitage, the CEO of Anchor Capital, covers two private security companies in South Africa. He said the industry is as strong as ever.

“If you have five robberies in a year - or 10 - you still need the same security," he said. "If there is a slight drop off in incidents, it does not mean the demand for services will drop. Unless things fundamentally change, there is no reason why people would have less security.”

In fact, since 2001, the number of active security officers in the country has more than doubled.  Right now, there are 412,000 private security officers on the ground.  The South African Police Service says it had about 194,000 paid employees in 2011.

Steve Conradie, the CEO of the Security Industry Alliance, said security companies play a considerable role in the nation’s economy, where the unemployment rate is about 25 percent.

“This industry, you should also remember, is the biggest employer of entry level jobs than any other industry in the country. That is quite significant from an employment point of view, as well,” said Conradie.

He agreed that South Africans are not likely to become complacent in terms of security anytime soon.

“Remember it is the individual’s choice to protect himself and his assets. So as long as that need is there for me and you to protect our families, or property, or even transport valuables, then I cannot see that this industry will look significantly different from what it looks now," said Conradie.

Drive down many of Johannesburg’s residential streets and you will catch glimpses only of roof tops, because the homes sit behind three-meter high security walls topped with electric fencing or barbed wire.  

There are sheds every few blocks with private security officers sitting guard and you likely will drive by a security patrol truck. Nearly every home has a sign board advertising it is protected by a private security company, which will respond 24 hours day with arms as needed.

You May Like

EU Court Fines Poland for Hosting CIA 'Black Sites'

Ruling is first time a court has acknowledged suspects were held and tortured at the sites, under US program launched following the 9/11 terrorist attacks More

Migrant Issues Close to Home Spur Groups to Take Action

Groups placing water, food in the desert, or aiding detainees after release, have one common goal: no more deaths of migrants crossing illegally into the US More

Video At AIDS Conference, Prevention Pill Stirs Excitement

Truveda shows promise, spurring debate over access and other approaches More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Fox
October 09, 2012 12:14 PM
Elderly people, young people and unsuspecting people are soft targets. Many cannot afford to hire private security Companies to protect them and their families and even if they could there would not be enough Security Companies, to take on this additional task
let alone the manpower. It is indeed a dangerous situation to be in for every law abiding citizen, Policemen and private security
personnel.


by: Anonymous
October 09, 2012 9:52 AM
Interesting. as a foreigner living in south africa, I think south africans have a false sense of security.


by: Low Intensity War
October 08, 2012 1:17 PM
Sadly this is very difficult to believe, given the current crime rate.Criminals are prepared to shoot it out with Police at any time and civillians. Their numbers and "firepower" make them dangerous in the extreme. No death penalty for these killings exacerbates violent crime and even the Police and Security Companies together cannot bring crime under control or prevent deaths of Policemen, civillians and farmers. Please read the Press reports to verify the facts Mr Steve Conradie.
Dont bluff the folk.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Treatment for Childhood Epilepsy Heats up Medical Marijuana Debatei
X
Shelley Schlender
July 24, 2014 6:43 PM
In the United States, marijuana is classed as an illegal drug by the federal government. But nearly half the states have legalized it, to some degree. Proponents say some strains of marijuana might have exceptional health benefits, for treating pain or inflammation in chronic conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Shelley Schlender reports on a strain of medical marijuana developed in Colorado that is reputed to reduce seizures in childhood epilepsy
Video

Video Treatment for Childhood Epilepsy Heats up Medical Marijuana Debate

In the United States, marijuana is classed as an illegal drug by the federal government. But nearly half the states have legalized it, to some degree. Proponents say some strains of marijuana might have exceptional health benefits, for treating pain or inflammation in chronic conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Shelley Schlender reports on a strain of medical marijuana developed in Colorado that is reputed to reduce seizures in childhood epilepsy
Video

Video Airbus Adds Metal 3D Printed Parts to New Jets

By the end of this year, European aircraft manufacturing consortium Airbus plans to deliver the first of its new, extra-wide-body passenger jets, the A350-XWB. Among other technological innovations, the new plane will also incorporate metal parts made in a 3-D printer. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video Death Toll From Israel-Gaza Conflict Surpasses 700

Gaza officials say a shelling hit a compound housing a United Nations-run school in the Gaza Strip, killing more than a dozen people, during an Israeli offensive in the area. Heavy fighting between the Israeli military and Hamas militants continued on Thursday, pushing up the death toll. So far, more than 730 Palestinians and 35 Israelis have been killed in the conflict. VOA's Scott Bobb has the latest from Jerusalem.
Video

Video AIDS Conference Welcomes Exciting Developments in HIV Treatment, Prevention

Significant strides have been made in recent years toward the treatment and prevention of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. This year, at the International AIDS Conference, the AIDS community welcomed progress on a new pill that may prevent transmission of the deadly virus. VOA’s Anita Powell reports from Melbourne, Australia.
Video

Video Israel Targets Gaza Supply Tunnels

The Israeli military has launched a ground operation in Gaza to destroy the myriad tunnels that may have been used to smuggle weapons to Hamas. VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports that could mean more hardship for the people of Gaza, who obtain some of their essential supplies through these underground passages
Video

Video Researchers Target Low-Cost Avatar Technology

Scientists at the University of Southern California Institute for Creative Technologies say 3-dimensional representations could revolutionize social media. Elizabeth Lee has more from Los Angeles.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video In Cambodia, HIV Diagnosis Brings Deadly Shame

Although HIV/AIDS is now a treatable condition, a positive diagnosis is still a life altering experience. In Cambodia, people living with HIV are often disowned by friends, family and the community. This humiliation can be unbearable. We bring you one Cambodian woman’s struggle to overcome a life tragedy and her own HIV positive diagnosis.

AppleAndroid