Anyone planning to visit a developing country should know the dangers as well as the benefits. Any major city center comes with its share of crime problems. As a potential vacationer or investor, Cape Town provides many enticing opportunities, including busy downtown centers, award-winning food and wine, and historic locations.
However, many government statistics have offered unsettling news concerning whether Cape Town is safe to visit. Knowing these statistics and understanding them in context is important to making the right decisions about the city as a whole.
Only then can you know if Cape Town is truly a safe place to bring yourself, your business partners, or your family.
South African government websites will inform you that Cape Town has a statistically high crime rate. Compared to other major cities in South Africa, Cape Town has some of the highest rates of murder, robbery, and non-violent property crime.
Knowing these statistics, many in recent years have written off Cape Town as a tourist and investment destination. This is a mistake.
In the case of any statistic, you have to ask how the data was collected and what the data represents. In the case of Cape Town’s crime rate, this means understanding in context how developing countries are structured and which parts of them remain undeveloped.
Suburbs on the outer edges of Cape Town and the Western Cape area like Cape Flats contain most of the crime represented by these statistics (95%, in fact). In these poor, barely developed neighborhoods, home break-ins and violent crimes are unfortunately all too common.
These areas are included in those crucial statistics about the dangerously high rates of crime in Cape Town. However, the truth is that as a visitor to South African, these are not districts you will ever visit.
Sticking to the business district, the large malls, and the historic landmarks will keep you close to the crime prevention and safety authorities that have been becoming more prevalent in Cape Town as it has become a busier vacation destination.
In fact, according to studies conducted by Tourism Management, international tourists visiting Cape Town’s historic landmarks were likely to return to the area and also to recommend it as a vacation to others. It is doubtful they would do this if the murder and theft rate was as high as it is in those statistics.
This is because those statistics are skewed to reflect crime in areas that neither they, nor you, will ever visit.
In the last few years, the Cape Town Central City Improvement District (or CCID) has become more prevalent than ever in creating crime prevention measures for the city. They issue guidelines for citizens and tourists to follow and conduct information training for tourism professionals so that everyone is up to speed on how to keep visitors and civilians safe.
ATM fraud and pickpocketing, the major crimes that happen in the busy city districts, have been a major cause for concern for the CCID. Since 2017, they have been hard at work with the Department of Community Safety to protect tourists from these unfortunate offenses.
By following their guidelines and the guidance of the trained tourism professionals, your stay in Cape Town should be as safe and enjoyable as in any major city. So long as you keep to the city centers, refrain from travelling at night, and use accredited taxi services to get where you’re going, Cape Town defies the implications of its worrisome statistics.
Holiday travelers continue to pick Cape Town as a favored destination and many of them return, leave positive feedback, and recommend it to those they know. The famous locations, restaurants, landmarks, and busy districts are becoming known among developing countries as a model for culture.
The statistics that exist suggesting that Cape Town has a crime problem are correct in that the fraud, theft, and vandalism that occurs in the city every day is a concern of the CCID in their major efforts to make citizens and tourists as safe as possible. However, the statistics detailing the overwhelming dangers of Cape Town are skewed to include non-developed areas in which crime is very high.
Taken in context, these numbers should not deter your visit to Cape Town. You would miss out on all of its cultural benefits, investment opportunities, and famous locations. As it develops and becomes more cognizant of visitors’ safety, it becomes even more relevant that you interpret statistics in context and make informed decisions about the perception and merit of a visit to Cape Town.