Publication Type: Journal article
Year: 2022
Author(s)Jane Kelly, Andrew Faull, Amanda Dissel, Bhekithemba Simelane, Lorna MartinJohan Dempers, Janette VersterVonita Thompson and Michael Vismer
Unit: AARHub
Journal: Acta Criminologica: African Journal of Criminology & Victimology

Abstract: "To stem the spread of the COVID-19 virus governments imposed unprecedented restrictions thereby disrupting established patterns of violent crime and launching the world’s largest criminological experiment. Using medico-legal mortuary homicide data, this study tracked and assessed murder in the Western Cape during the first five months of South Africa’s COVID-19 lockdown in 2020, with a particular focus on 11 of the provinces’ most violent areas. Findings reveal that after an initial sharp decline, murders continued at nearly four times the pre-pandemic global average, despite unprecedented restrictions on movement, alcohol sales and economic activity. Data also suggests that while restrictions on alcohol and movement may have contributed to a reduction in murder by sharp object, patterns of firearm-related murder may have persisted, irrespective of the availability of alcohol or restrictions on movement. A key lesson from this study is that both alcohol and firearms require better regulation. If the alcohol ban helped decrease sharp object, opportunistic fatal violence, then better regulation of alcohol as well as addressing the underlying causes of risky drinking practices may do the same in future. Alcohol enforcement should also be accompanied by the full regulation of firearms, focusing particularly on the removal of illegal firearms, and on corrupt officials who feed them back to communities. However, given that the murder rate remained four times higher than the pre-pandemic global average, even after it had significantly declined, long-term solutions to the country’s violence will require far more than policing and regulation. What is needed is a public health approach that concentrates on addressing the risk factors that contribute to violence and strengthening protective factors that mitigate against violence. This requires government, civil society, and academia to come together in designing and implementing sustainable interventions that focus on risk and protective factors across the life-course."

Citation:  Kelly, J. F., Faull, A., Dissel, A., Simelane, B., Martin, L., Dempers, J., ... & Vismer, M. (2022). Murder in the Western Cape’s High Violence Areas During the first COVID-19 Lockdown. Acta Criminologica: African Journal of Criminology & Victimology34(3), 118-138.