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Crime and perceptions after a decade of democracy

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Abstract

Crime has become central to any discussion about the consolidation of democracy in South Africa. Concerns about crime intensified in the years after 1994, as the country attempted to grapple with the apparent ‘crime wave’ that accompanied the transition. A decade later crime is still a priority for government and a concern among citizens, but the clamour that characterised both state and civil society responses in the early years of democracy has receded (See the article by the author in Social Indicators Research 41: 137–168, 1997). This may relate to the decrease in crime levels as reflected by various statistical sources. It is also possible that those whose voices were heard most loudly on the issue – the middle classes – have taken all available measures to protect their property and lives from crime. In all likelihood, South Africans have become accustomed to living in a violent society, and one in which other equally serious problems now require attention. Although the national obsession with crime has waned, the available data nevertheless indicate that the problem still affects many thousands of lives. The impact of crime – in terms of the costs of victimisation, negative perceptions and fear, and the cost of responding to crime – remains high for South African society. This paper considers how crime levels and perceptions about crime and safety have changed over the past decade, and what these trends tell us about the country 10 years into our democracy.

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Correspondence to Antoinette Louw.

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Louw, A. Crime and perceptions after a decade of democracy. Soc Indic Res 81, 235–255 (2007). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11205-006-9009-y

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Key’words

  • crime
  • crime trends
  • fear of crime
  • public perceptions of crime
  • violence