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

Official: S. Sudan President, Rebel Leader to Meet in Tanzania

Talks part of effort to end conflict in country that has left more than 10,000 people dead, displaced more than 1.5 million others More

Dutch Deny Link to Mystery Submarine Off Sweden

Netherlands denies Russian claim that 'foreign vessel' photographed in waters off Sweden could be Dutch More

China Boosts Efforts to Help Afghan, Regional Stability

Observers say China’s increased regional involvement are due to concerns that Afghan instability and the presence of anti-China militants in Pakistani border areas could fuel Xinjiang troubles 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.
China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Lawi
X
William Ide
October 20, 2014 10:23 AM
China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.
Video

Video Latinas Converting to Islam for Identity, Structure

Latinos are one of the fastest growing groups in the Muslim religion. According to the Pew Research Center, about 6 percent of American Muslims are Latino. And a little more than half of new converts are female. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti travelled to Miami, Florida -- where two out of every three residents is Hispanic -- to learn more.
Video

Video Nigeria Agrees to Cease-Fire With Boko Haram

Islamist militant group Boko Haram and the Nigerian government have agreed to a cease-fire. The Nigerian government issued an order Friday, telling all military chiefs "to comply with the cease-fire agreement in all theaters of operations. Why now and the significance of the agreement are questions on some people’s minds. VOA's Mariama Diallo reports.
Video

Video Kobani Fighting Sends 400,000 Refugees to Turkey

The offensive by Islamic State militants against the northern Syrian city of Kobani has caused hundreds of thousands of residents to flee to Turkey. They receive help from Turkish authorities and individuals, but say much more is needed. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from the town of Suruc a few kilometers from the border.
Video

Video Exclusive: American Joins Kurds' Anti-IS Fight

The United States and other Western nations have expressed alarm about their citizens joining Islamic State forces in Syria and Iraq. In a rare counterpoint to the phenomenon, an American has taken up arms with the militants' Syrian Kurdish opponents. Elizabeth Arrott has more in this exclusive profile by VOA Kurdish reporter Zana Omer in Ras al Ayn, Syria.
Video

Video South Korea Confronts Violence Within Military Ranks

Every able-bodied South Korean male between 18 and 35 must serve for 21 to 36 months in the country’s armed forces, depending upon the specific branch. For many, service is a rite of passage to manhood. But there are growing concerns that bullying and violence come along with the tradition. Reporter Jason Strother has more from Seoul.
Video

Video Comanche People Maintain Pride in Their Heritage

The Comanche (Indian nation) once were called the “Lords of the Plains,” with an empire that included half the land area of current day Texas, large parts of Oklahoma, New Mexico, Kansas and Colorado.The fierceness and battle prowess of these warriors on horseback delayed the settlement of most of West Texas for four decades. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Lawton, Oklahoma, that while their warrior days are over, the 15,000 members of the Comanche Nation remain a proud people.
Video

Video Turkey Campus Attacks Raise Islamic Radicalization Fears

Concerns are growing in Turkey of Islamic radicalization at some universities, after clashes between supporters of the jihadist group Islamic State (IS) or ISIS, and those opposed to the extremists. Pro-jihadist literature is on sale openly on the streets of Istanbul. Critics accuse the government of turning a blind eye to radicalism at home, while Kurds accuse the president of supporting IS - a charge strongly denied. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Syrian Defector Leaks Shocking Photos of Torture Victims

Shocking photographs purporting to show Syrian torture victims are on display at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington. The museum says the graphic images are among thousands of photographs recently smuggled out of Syria by a military policeman-turned-defector. As VOA reporter Julie Taboh reports, the museum says the photos provide further evidence of atrocities committed by the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad against its own people.
Video

Video Drought-Stricken California Considers Upgrading Water System

A three-year drought in California is causing a water shortage that is being felt on farms and cities throughout the state. As VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports, water experts, consumers and farmers say California needs to make changes to cope with an uncertain future.
Video

Video TechShop Puts High-tech Dreams Within Reach

Square, a business app and card reader, makes it possible to do credit card transactions through cell phones. But what made Square possible? VOA’s Adrianna Zhang and Enming Liu have the answer.

All About America

AppleAndroid