Latest crime data: More Zimbabweans turning to crime as economic woes mount

Zimbabwe crime
Inmates at the Chikurubi Maximum security prison: Crime is on the rise as economy struggles (pic: Jekesai Njikizana / AFP)

Zimbabwe has recorded a notable rise in crime, with housebreaking, robbery and theft increasing by close to 50% over the past two years, as economic conditions have worsened, official statistics show.

Data prepared by the Zimbabwe National Statistics Agency (Zimstat) shows that, between 2017 and 11 months of 2018, murder cases rose 19%, while housebreaking cases increased by 46%. Car theft rose by 37%, robberies by 34% and other thefts were up 49%.

The crime statistics, supplied by the Zimbabwe Republic Police and carried in Zimstat’s latest quarterly report, are up to November 2018.

The report also shows significant increases in fraud, up 13% over the period, armed robbery (11%), illegal possession of firearms (8%), theft from cars (8%).

Amid fears over rising crime, the police, which introduced 24-hour patrols in the capital, says it is responding to the situation.

“The ZRP is conducting general patrols, blitz, stop and search patrols in all Central Business Districts, industrial sites, residential areas and other places, which are usually frequented by the public with a view of getting rid of the malady of criminality,” police spokesperson Paul Nyathi said in a statement last week.

The statement was prompted by a May 14, 2019 US State Department travel advisory, which warned American citizens of the threat of “crime and civil unrest”.

“Violent crime, such as assault, carjacking, and home invasion, is common. Smashing the windows of cars with the intent to steal, which can harm the driver or passengers, is also common,” reads the advisory.

“Local police lack the resources to respond effectively to serious criminal incidents.”

After being dramatically disarmed by the military during the November 2017 coup, the police force has significantly reduced its presence on the country’s roads, a major source of income in previous years.

The police used to retain as much as US$60 million from  traffic fines, per year, which was used to fund its operations. The bulk of the police budget is taken up by salaries and allowances, leaving very little for capital expenditure and operations.

A report by the Auditor-General found multiple police stations that were not banking the proceeds from traffic fines.

Notably, both armed robbery cases and the illegal possession of firearms have remained within recent multiple-year average.

Here is a graphical illustration of Zimbabwe’s crime levels for the major offences:

Robbery cases were up, almost reaching the previous peak in 2014.

Police are also reporting a spike in housebreaking incidents. Reported cases now reaching record highs.

Murder cases are up, although still off their 2015 high.