n Acta Criminologica: Southern African Journal of Criminology - The problematic nature of the South African crime context

Volume 25, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 1012-8093



The South African Police Service (SAPS) indicates violent crime to be the crime category that poses an ultimate threat to the South African society. This creates the impression that there are distinguishable "violent predators" that are lodging an attack on the South African society while the complexity of offending behaviour, on the one hand, and commonality of crime risk factors that may manifest in an unpredictable generic fashion on the other hand, is overlooked. While violent crime is more volatile in its manifestations and its effects more observable, the risk is linked to the offender and not to the offense type. While the offense type is a mere taxonomy of manifested behaviour, it is the offender and the criminal event that serve as prerequisites for predisposing factors to precipitate offending behaviour. It is hypothesized that so-called violent predators are few and far between. It is rather the risk related to the opportunity to offend and the offender's personal life world that serves as "motivation" to offend rather than unique specialized determinants of violence per se. Furthermore, the South African crime context is not unique at all. Crimes of violence are more a consequence of the dynamics of offending behaviour and consequent risk factors. The real risk can be found in the "cafeteria-style" or versatility of offending which renders risk and effect unpredictable and uncertain. However, the determination of predictability and risk reduction is possible on an individualized level. The author conducted a third-generation assessment on two populations of high risk offenders based on a violent and non-violent dichotomy to compare findings in order to determine whether any corresponding or dissimilar results emanates from these assessments. This is necessary because a dedicated approach to the understanding of criminogenic dynamics can reduce crime risks and the manifestation over time. The statistical results indicate that the distributions in the two offender population do not have a statistically significant difference and that the variability of the data in the two populations is actually the same. This underscores the complexity of the South African crime context proportionate to a predominantly "cafeteria-style" of offending and criminal versatility. Unless the underlying crime risk factors are addressed from a holistic point of view, the perceived "violent" crime risk will not be reduced significantly.

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