US & World

Coronavirus: South Africa crime rate plummets during lockdown

Police officer outside a liquor store in Cape TownImage copyright Reuters
Image caption The police force has attributed the drop in crime to a controversial alcohol ban

Crime in South Africa dropped by up to 40% during the first three months of its lockdown, official figures show.

The police minister said most types of crimes went down between April and June – including sexual assault and arson.

He added that a controversial alcohol ban during the coronavirus lockdown had helped, but that attacks on liquor stores had increased in the pandemic.

South Africa among the world’s highest crime rates. It has also recorded over half the coronavirus cases in Africa.

More than 500,000 infections and 11,000 deaths have been reported in the country – although BBC Africa Editor Mary Harper says this may be because of its reliable testing rates.

Police Minister Bheki Cele told reporters on Friday that the figures “paint a never-seen-before ‘rosy’ picture of a peaceful South Africa experiencing a “crime holiday”.

“These statistics show major decreases in all crime categories compared to the same comparative period last year,” he said. “A 40.4% decrease in the number of rape cases were reported during the three months.”

Contact and property-related crimes – including arson and malicious damage – went down by 29%.

The ban on alcohol and cigarettes in lockdown South Africa has been controversial.

The country implemented a ban on alcohol sales between 27 March and 1 June. The ban was reimposed on 12 July, and remains in place.

Alcohol consumption comparisons

In April, at the start of the lockdown, Mr Cele warned that his officers would “destroy the infrastructure where the liquor is sold”.

The police minister has been accused of encouraging a heavy-handed approach towards people caught drinking – including the alleged beating to death of a man in his own garden.

Bar and restaurant owners have also protested against the ban, saying it will destroy their businesses.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption People in Cape Town protested against the alcohol ban this week

Last month, the South African Police Service released the country’s overall crime stats for the year 2019/2020.

Overall in the last year, carjacking, robberies of non-residential properties and murders all increased from the previous year.

Sexual offences, driving under the influence of drugs and alcohol, and possession of illegal firearms were also up.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-53787846

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