In February 2007, the Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation was contracted by the South African government to carry out a study on the nature of crime in South Africa. The study pointed out different factors which contributed to high levels of violence. Violent and non-violent crimes in South Africa have been ascribed to:
- The normalization of violence. Violence is seen as a necessary and justified way of resolving conflict, and males believe that coercive sexual behavior against women is legitimate.
- A subculture of violence and criminality, ranging from individual criminals who rape or rob to informal groups or more formalized gangs. Those involved in the subculture are engaged in criminal careers and commonly use firearms, with the exception of Cape Town where knife violence is more prevalent. Credibility within this subculture is related to the readiness to resort to extreme violence.
- The vulnerability of young people linked to inadequate child rearing and poor youth socialization. As a result of poverty, unstable living arrangements and being brought up with inconsistent and uncaring parenting, some South African children are exposed to risk factors which enhance the chances that they will become involved in criminality and violence.
- The high levels of inequality, poverty, unemployment, social exclusion and marginalization.
- The reliance on a criminal justice system that is mired in many issues, including inefficiency and corruption.
- Many South African police officers work long hours out of under-resourced police stations. Many of these stations lack basic office equipment such as a photocopier or fax machine, while their only phone landline is often busy, and they may be out of printing paper or even toilet paper.
- Many police officers are tempted by offers from the criminal underworld, especially when their superiors and seniors are visibly on the take. A 2019 survey by Global Corruption Barometer Africa suggested that the South African Police Service is seen as the most corrupt institution in the country.
- South Africa's Criminal Justice Budget was subject to plunder by corrupt police officials at least during the period from 1997 to 2017. The massive inside job involved over 20 persons in the SAPS's top brass, and probes into these activities necessitated the discontinuation of some essential policing services.
- Ammunition and fire arms are regularly stolen from the security forces, and it is feared that these may be used in other crimes.