Countrywide decline in livestock theft


Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

Livestock theft remains a crime that seriously affects the agricultural community, having a detrimental economic, emotional, and psychological effect on livestock producers. Considering this, the National Stock Theft Prevention Forum (NSTPF) was fortunate be provided with additional information on livestock statistics from the South African Police Service (SAPS).

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On 20 May 2021, police minister Bheki Cele presented the national crime statistics for South Africa, including the livestock theft crime statistics. The NSTPF analyses these statistics as one of its many objectives.

NSTPF will continue to provide yearly overview

Since 2003, we have become accustomed to statistics only being released once per year. The decision by the SAPS to release the statistics on a quarterly basis as of 2020, may create a blurred view of what South Africans have become used to.

Thus, the NSTPF decided to still provide a yearly overview. The Forum is astounded that for the first time since data was collected, the number of cases reported decreased in all provinces in South Africa for the period 2019/20 to 2020/21 (Figure 1).

Figure 1: Percentage of the decrease/increase in the number of livestock theft cases reported for the period 2019/20 to 2020/21.

The four provinces with the largest decreases are North West (31,76 %), the Free State (23,39%), Limpopo (21,26%) and Mpumalanga (20,95%). Nationally, there is a decrease of 12,78% in the number of livestock theft cases reported.

The decreases in view of the percentages in the other five provinces are not as significant. It remains a challenge to work with the percentages as it creates false impressions regarding the numbers involved. Therefore, the inclusion of the drop in the number of cases as per Figure 2 is enlightening.

Figure 2: The decrease in the number of cases per province 2019/20 to 2020/21.

It is obvious from Figure 2 that the decrease in the Western Cape, the Northern Cape and Gauteng is negligible in the bigger picture as it only comprises 3,29% of the total decline.

Series of variables leads to drop in cases

The provinces with a major impact on the decreases are the Free State and the Eastern Cape, which contributed 44%. The reason for these decreases is not as obvious and can be attributed to a series of variables, such as Covid-19, the use of social media platforms (WhatsApp groups), CCTV technology, improved crime prevention strategies, media exposure and/or the constant decrease in the reporting of livestock theft. Nevertheless, the NSTPF is delighted.

Irrespective of the number of cases reported, it is imperative to also include the number of livestock stolen per province, as indicated in Table 1 below.

Table 1: The number of livestock per species stolen per province.

The information in Table 1 indicates that the number of cases is not always a good barometer as in the Eastern Cape the number of species stolen has increased. Given the number of stolen livestock in the Eastern Cape, it remains a challenge to address livestock theft in the province.

With six of the ten hotspots being in the Eastern Cape, one should not really be so awestruck. The hotspots in the country are indicated in Table 2.

Table 2: Hotspots in South Africa with the number of reported cases in 2020/21.

The economic impact of livestock theft is always of great importance, as can be seen in Table 3.

Table 3: The economic impact of livestock theft.

The decrease in the economic impact on livestock producers is 6% compared to the number of cases that decreased by 12,78%.

Although claims are made that the decrease can be attributed to Covid-19 and the subsequent lockdown regulations, the quarterly statistics of the number of cases reported and number of livestock stolen, indicate that there has been a continuous decrease since level 5 to the current level 1. The number of cases per quarter is as per the information in Table 4.

Table 4: The number of livestock theft cases per quarter in 2020/21.

The statistics of the previous years, although not indicated in Table 4, correlate with the tendency seen in Table 4. The information places the presumption made about increases over the Christmas and Easter periods in jeopardy.

The role of day and night lengths

From the onset it is clear that there is a correlation with day and night lengths and the number of livestock theft cases. This means that the longer the nights in winter, the more livestock theft takes place. In winter, patrols by stock theft information centres (STICs) and farm watches are less frequent. The latter is an assumption because no formal information about patrols is available. This tendency may also be due to religious reasons.

The Forum wishes to thank every community, STIC, farm watch and role-player in the criminal justice system for their respective contributions to the decrease. – Press release, National Stock Theft Prevention Forum