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'Good' crime?

27 November 2012, 10:38
Another slow Tuesday morning, another horrific crime story on News24: http://www.news24.com/SouthAfrica/News/Woman-brutally-murdered-in-Boksburg-20121126

Reading news reports of violent crime, I often wonder how balanced a picture the media is portraying to us. Moreover, what do police statistics show us?

I don't think I've ever read a news story with the headline 'Woman held up at home by respectful robbers who left her uninjured. Insurance pays out.' Why is that? Is it because it never happens, or is it because the news editors deem that we wouldn't find such a story 'interesting' enough?

Now I know that a lot of people will criticise South African police statistics, but they're at least a fixed data point in this fuzzy situation.

The 2011/2012 SAPS stats can be found here: http://www.saps.gov.za/statistics/reports/crimestats/2012/categories.htm
In brief, we had 16 766 residential robberies with aggravating circumstances nationally in the last year, and 15 609 murders nationally.

What isn't made clear is how many of the residential robberies resulted in murders, and were then (presumably) relocated into the murder category. That's a pretty important stat for this debate.

One other important observation from the crime stats is that the national crime ratio for residential robbery is 33.1 per 100 000 of the population (this figure is 55.9 in Gauteng alone).

The conclusions we can draw are:

1: In incidents brought to the SAPS' attention, only a lesser percentage of domestic robberies result in murders. This is based on the assumption that the majority of murders are non-residential (shebeen fights, domestic disputes, taxi rank shootings).2: At a ratio of 33.1 per 100 000 per year, it will take 3021 years for all South Africans to have experienced a domestic robbery with aggravating circumstances.

Please note: I am NOT diminishing the abhorrence of violent crime in South Africa. I am also NOT advocating that there is nothing to be afraid of, because clearly violent crime is a reality.

Rather, I am asking a simple question: if all we hear in the news is the worst of the worst, aren't our perceptions of our country going to become skewed?

There's the old debate of 'Good news doesn't sell', but then we need to recognise this as consumers of news. It's too easy to get caught up in the ultra-violent stories, however, and that's where the real danger comes in.
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