n Acta Criminologica: Southern African Journal of Criminology - Heritage crime as the illegitimate sibling of the South African crime family

Volume 24, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 1012-8093



In the face of violent crime in South Africa, heritage-related crime fades into oblivion. Statistically, there is no evidence of the true extent of this crime in South Africa. Using purposive and snowball sampling the researcher selected participants from both the law enforcement and heritage sectors in South Africa and probed the issue with a semi-structured interview schedule. To address the issue of the importance of heritage crime, the participants were asked how important they thought it was to address heritage crime in South Africa when there was so much violent crime. A data analysis spiral was used to analyse the data. While all the participants emphasised the importance of addressing heritage crime, three distinct and separate themes emerged, namely a too narrow understanding of what heritage is, the perceived seriousness of heritage crime as a crime, and international best practices in terms of addressing heritage crime. The results indicate that museums as custodians of the national patrimony need to open a discourse to define / re-define the collective understanding of heritage. Moreover, there needs to be a realisation that heritage in terms of eco-tourism impacts positively, not only on the national economy, but within local communities too. Failure to safeguard this attraction will effectively cut off the head of the goose that lays the golden egg. Finally, the South African Police Service would do well to consider the reestablishment of a specialised capacity that would undertake investigations against the perpetrators of crime against the art and heritage objects of this country.

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