ISS questions value of violence report

2012-01-18 07:00
Cape Town - The credibility and value of a report by a Mexican organisation claiming Cape Town is the most violent city in Africa was questioned by the Institute for Security Studies (ISS) on Tuesday.

"It is almost reckless to say that. This simplistic type of comparison can create all types of perceptions," ISS senior crime and justice researcher Johan Burger said.

"We are very sceptical and question the value that it really adds to anything. We have decided not to take it too seriously."

The 2011 Citizen Council for Public Safety and Criminal Justice report ranked Cape Town as the 34th most violent city in the world.

The non-governmental organisation placed the metropole above Mosul in Iraq (44th place), Durban (49) and Johannesburg (50).

Murder rate per 100 000 residents

The report ranked the 50 most violent cities by calculating the murder rate per 100 000 residents.

San Pedro Sula in Honduras was considered the most violent, followed by Cuidad Juarez in Mexico and Macei in Brazil.

The report calculated a rate of 46 murders per 100 000 people in Cape Town.

It used a population figure identical to that of a community survey conducted by Statistics SA in 2007.

It is unclear where the murder rate was drawn from.

"I think when one looks at this kind of study, and we often see this kind of study making all kinds of claims and comparisons, we are always very careful," Burger said.

"Throughout the world, the definition of crimes vary and the recording systems are different. The problem is we are not quite certain what methodology they applied, what criteria they used and what definitions [they have] of crime."

Burger said using murder as a crime indicator was inappropriate.

"Most murders, over 80%, happen between people who know one another and in poorer communities as well."

He said these murders, committed largely in Cape Town townships like Khayelitsha, had little to do with good or bad policing and more to do with socio-economic conditions.


"If you want to look at crime types, you should look at violent crimes in general the picture is different. South Africa is also one of only a few African countries who actually publish its crime figures," he said.

The ISS questioned the accuracy of the report's figures, saying it was difficult to make an accurate comparison of crimes in metropolitan areas.

The SA Police Service's statistics focused on a national and provincial level, rather than metropolitan areas.

Burger said such studies had little value as they only created a so-called psychosis of fear among residents in certain areas.

Read more on:    institute for security studies  |  cape town

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