The nationwide lockdown has seen South Africans under ‘house arrest’ since 27th March 2020. These are unprecedented times as the world attempts to take the reins and gain control of the COVID-19 pandemic.

During this time, most of the population (aside from essential workers) have not left their homes, bringing to question the impact that the lockdown has had or will have on crime and public safety. Stats have shown that locations such as Netherlands and New York experienced a 17% drop in crime during their lockdown. Could we expect a similar decrease in crime in South Africa?

Some might speculate that there should be a natural correlation between people staying at home 24/7 and crime levels; where home invasion numbers should decrease. However, the opposite may also be true as people become complacent and ‘laid back’ with their security measures during lockdown, thinking that they are less likely to be attacked if they are home all the time and creating a false sense of security.

South Africa also faces very different challenges to Western or first world countries as we battle with severe inequality and poverty. Millions of people are living in small spaces, over-crowded informal locations and in cramped conditions, making it very challenging for them to stay indoors for weeks. Our country also has one of the highest murder rates due to poverty, cultural violence, unemployment and inequality, issues that are exacerbated by alcohol and drug abuse. Our police minister confirmed that in the first week of the lockdown, the SAPS received 2 320 complaints of gender-based violence.

This kind of information is unpleasant, but it serves to remind us that we need to remain vigilant and smart with security, during and after lockdown. Security gates should stay locked, alarm systems should remain activated and camera systems must be on and monitored.

As the rules of lockdown get gradually lifted, there is no predicting how the population will respond. We may see life return to normal in a controlled, orderly manner or there may be civil unrest and public disorder. Predicting how and when the economy will recover will be challenging as many people find themselves in dire financial straits, the poor will have gotten poorer and unemployment levels will escalate.

This, again, reiterates that although we should be kind and compassionate towards our fellow citizens and those in need, we also need to stay safe in our homes and when we enter public areas. Remember to lock your car doors and windows while driving, be careful at traffic lights, keep pepper spray on hand, watch out for scammers and opportunists, keep emergency numbers easily accessible on your phone, go for runs in groups; don’t take your safety for granted.

It’s not an easy pill to swallow when considering the crime challenges we face in South Africa. It’s an uncomfortable and aggravating topic. However, we have to be realistic and take the necessary precautions and security measures to continue to protect ourselves, our loved-ones and those in need.