In South Africa, both "crime" and "safety" are loaded terms. In her new book - Can we be safe? The Future of Policing in South Africa - Ziyanda Stuurman unpacks the complex and fraught history of policing, courts and prisons in South Africa. In the extract below, Stuurman details how public perception of crime is manipulated by false information, and selective media narratives.
As Nechama Brodie has explained in her research and writing work over the last decade, reported crime levels in South Africa increased dramatically between the 1980s and 2002, but steadily declined between 2002 and 2013 as detailed below.
However, public perceptions about crime and safety did not change. Selective reporting in the media on specific or high-profile cases and/or high-profile victims of crime, inadequate communication from government and the police, and social media commentary that contributes to the dissemination of myths and misinformation around crime all play a part in spreading inaccurate and decontextualised information rather than more accurate and reliable information.