Crime statistics do not belong to the government, academics, specialists, or the press. They are ours: we experience and report crimes and have a right to access and understand their official record. It should not take any particular expertise to get a grasp on what we should make of the figures and graphs that the South African Police Service produces every year.
Yet crime, its measurement and control, are as much political matters as they are technocratic. While there is much that remains open to interpretation and discussion, there are some things that we should all be able to agree on, based on a sober reading of the evidence. As crime is a serious issue in South Africa, knowing what the official sources say is critical for productive debates on what we can do to make our country safer.
A Citizen’s Guide to Crime Trends in South Africa provides a basis on which to understand the statistics in a manner that is accessible to the general public. Each chapter challenges a set of oft-repeated assumptions about how bad crime is, where it occurs, and who its victims are. It also demonstrates how and why crime statistics need to be matched with other forms of research, including criminal justice data, in order to produce a fuller account of what we are faced with.