A crime tracker released yesterday by Bryte insurance company shows that criminals are turning their focus away from business premises and towards homes, which are seen as softer targets.
The tracker looks at contact crimes such as house robberies and hijackings as well as theft and malicious damage to property for 2016 and compares them to 2015.
The data was captured from insurance claims made by both home and business owners and was collected from nearly 4,000 claims submitted to Bryte.
The tracker showed that crime had increased on average by 1.1%, with a decrease in crimes committed against businesses. Recorded crimes of theft, contact crimes [robberies] and malicious damage to property spiked in April, July and September, whereas in the past, the increases occurred in December and January.
Last year August was recorded as having the greatest increase. Bryte says the marked decrease in crime in December is due to greater vigilance on the part of home and business owners.
Bryte’s chief claims officer Cloud Saungweme said the tracker showed investments by businesses in state-of-the-art security technology were beginning to pay off.
He said the tracker showed robberies and hijackings “peaked at an annual growth rate of 10.3% in June, but dropped dramatically in December “.
“Malicious damage to property shows a dip in June but a considerable increase towards November and then a decrease in December, with theft increasing towards the end of the year.”
Saungweme said data collected by Bryte since 2014 was compared with that collected by the SA Insurance Crime Bureau from other insurance companies.
“It is clear from the data that criminals are adapting their tactics. Whereas, in the past, there would be a spike in crimes during the Easter and Christmas holidays, we are now seeing a definite move to different times of the year by criminals. They are increasing their activities in times not normally associated with spikes.”
Saungweme said it was clear that, like home and business owners who heeded safety and security campaigns, criminals also took note of these campaigns.
“Criminals, especially those operating in syndicates, are not stupid. They are educated and carefully monitor what’s happening in their environment.”
He said the increase in malicious damage to property could be put down to a number of factors, including criminals taking their frustrations out on properties when they could not find what they are looking for.
“This applies especially to criminals who break into properties to steal so they can feed their drug and alcohol needs.”
Saungweme said the tracker pointed to a clear increase in the number of people turning to theft.
“The high level of unemployment is driving people to steal.”
University of Cape Town criminologist Simon Howell said criminals were constantly honing their skills and looking for innovative ways to commit crime.
“Not all criminals are dumb. They are often incredibly smart and innovative, especially those involved in organised crime.”
From next month the tracker will be released monthly and will look at emerging trends.
The data, which breaks down crimes down to a provincial level, shows that Gauteng, Western Cape and KwaZulu-Natal incurred the highest levels of crime.