As South Africans, we often perceive our country as having high crime levels, especially compared to other countries. The Crime Index by City 2021 survey demonstrated this, where citizens ranked six South African cities as being among the global top 20 of the most dangerous cities. The respondents perceived the overall level of crime in three South African cities, namely Pretoria, Durban and Johannesburg, as being very high.

However, when it comes to vehicle theft, including hijackings, South Africa fares well compared to developed countries. Based on statistics aggregated by Australia’s National Motor Vehicle Theft Reduction Council (NMVTRC) from in-country police and crime reports*, at 109, South Africa has one of the lowest rates of vehicle theft per 100 000 population. New Zealand is at the top with a high current theft rate of 636 per 100 000 population.

This is more than double to 10 times the theft rate of the other countries analysed. Australia, Canada, USA, England and Wales, all have a higher theft rate per 100 000 population than South Africa, while only Ireland and the Netherlands are lower.

Traffic Officer in the Western Cape

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Accounting for the reports

To account for diverse reporting standards across the countries, including variations in reporting timing, the number of vehicles, and population size, it is best to index the country numbers to a common point and measuring performance from that point. When indexed to 2015, South Africa still has a lower vehicle theft rate than most other countries, and its theft rate has decreased by 13% over the past five years.

On the other hand, England and Wales have seen the greatest increase in theft rate, to 26% more than five years ago. In contrast, New Zealand and Australia have seen an uptick in vehicle theft going into 2020.

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For us at Tracker, it is encouraging that South Africa is fighting the scourge on vehicle crime, and this could be attributed to our well-established vehicle tracking services. However, we mustn’t become complacent, as the downward trend could quickly turn. We therefore ask South Africans to remain vigilant and be on the lookout for suspicious persons or vehicles, whether driving or parking your car. By doing so, we could contribute to decreasing vehicle crime numbers even more.

Duma Ngcobo is the chief operating officer at Tracker South Africa

Australia – CARS database; Canada – Statistics Canada; Ireland – Central Statistics Office of Ireland; Netherlands – Foundation for Tackling Vehicle Crime; New Zealand Police; South Africa – South African Police Service; UK – Office of National Statistics; USA – FBI Uniform Crime Reports.

Traffic Officer at road block

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