Why is crime violent?

2008-01-02 00:00

Although statistics released by the South African Police Service during 2007 reveal slight decreases in some categories of serious crime, worrying levels of what is often gratuitous violence — unresisting victims shot during hijackings and robberies, elderly farmers tortured, street children set alight and the eyes of robbery victims gouged out — continue. Why is crime in South Africa so violent?

In black families, women were regularly abused by their partners, by men, who, stripped of their dignity by apartheid, displaced their anger on to their partners. Apartheid criminalised a large sector of black society; prisons became schools for turning people jailed for trivial offences into hardened criminals. By the eighties guns were flooding into black-occupied areas to fuel state-sponsored black-on-black violence.

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