n Acta Criminologica: Southern African Journal of Criminology - Thefts from museums and galleries in Gauteng : the value of accurate crime reporting

Volume 26, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 1012-8093



The publication of the 2011/2012 crime statistics sparked much debate. One of the big reasons for this debate had been the trustworthiness and quality of the statistics used to report on the different crimes. Theft of heritage objects is one such crime for which there are no statistics recorded on the Crime Administration System (CAS) of the South African Police Service. The scale and magnitude of thefts from museums and galleries is open to speculation. Hence for the research for this article museums and galleries in Gauteng were surveyed to quantify the incidents of thefts from these institutions for the period 2006-2010. Once the scale of the problem became known, it was possible to undertake further analyses, such as identifying targeted items and assessing the reporting of incidents to the police. The analysed data revealed not only a definite escalation in the number of items stolen from 2010 onwards, but also which kinds of items are normally targeted during thefts. Moreover, the data showed that almost 50 per cent of thefts from museums and galleries are not reported to the police. An analysis of the reported incidents indicated that the data pertaining to the item is captured incorrectly in about 50 percent of the cases. This translates into unsuccessful data searches on the CAS using museological criteria. The significance of these findings is vital for both law enforcement and the museums and galleries. The targeted institutions need to take all incidents of theft seriously and report even attempted theft to the police. Moreover, it is vital that the police consider the development of a separate crime code for heritage objects. This will not only ensure that data are captured more accurately, but it will make it possible to withdraw and analyse statistics to develop a better understanding of the manifestation of the problem.

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