Content warning: Disturbing details follow below.
An hour after he landed in South Africa in November, Walter Fischel was shot in the face by robbers. The 55-year-old US tourist had been following the directions on a global positioning system (GPS) in the hired car he was driving from Cape Town International Airport to his rental accommodation in Simons Town.
The shortest route on the GPS had led Fischel to Nyanga township. There, he later told journalists, his car was surrounded by a group of men who shot him and made off with the car, his money and passport.
In August, Kar Hao Teoh, a British surgeon, was gunned down in the area while using the route to avoid roads closures. Nyanga on the Cape Flats in Cape Town and the areas that surrounding it are notorious for violent crime.
In the wake of the attacks, the authorities asked Google Maps to remove the crime hot spot from its GPS options.
High crime levels
Google South Africa Director Alistair Mokoena says authorities requested the deletion of the Nyanga crime hotspot from the company's GPS routes.
"There is a specific portion of that route that passes through Nyanga that's deemed unsafe by the authorities, who said 'You as Google, are you able to make sure that we don't recommend that particular portion of the route?" Mokoena told DW.
According to police, there are about 58 such crime hotspots across the country, he said. Google can however only remove a location from the GPS when authorities put in a request.
The latest official crime statistics show that 78 people are killed in South Africa on average every day and 100 women are raped every 24 hours.
Minister of Police Bheki Cele told journalists that over 10,000 rapes were reported between July and September this year. Many of the thousands of murders over the same period involved robbers with firearms.
"Despite the overall drop in the country's murder rate between July and September this year, 6,945 people were murdered in South Africa in three months. That's why we can't take comfort from the reduction. We can't say we have arrived. We can't say we have done all the best. These figures are too high," Cele said.
CCTV and security guards in church
In November, Pastor Dwayne Gordon was shot dead when robbers attacked congregants during an evening church service at the Eagle Christian Centre in the Johannesburg suburb of Newlands in Gauteng Province.
Authorities in the province recently introduced a new security structure in which "peace wardens" support police operations.
Churches in many places have deployed their own CCTV surveillance systems and armed guards too.
Bishop Kelly Tsedu Muntswu of the Shiloh Family Church in Johannesburg wants the authorities to do more.
"Bring the wardens to help churches. They are everywhere. They have got fast cars. They are compassionate. They are passionate. We see them,” Muntswu told DW.
Criminals are outpacing police
"We have seen crime increase quite significantly since 2012. It's stabilized in the most recent quarterly crime statistics, but it's still at extremely elevated levels," Guy Lamp, a criminologist told DW.
South African police are being outpaced by criminals, he said: "They [police] haven't lost the war on crime but certainly they are not winning it."
In Gauteng, residents say new measures such as "peace wardens" have brought little comfort as criminals continue to terrorize communities.
The army is meanwhile expected to join the fight against crime. President Cyril Ramaphosa recently authorized the deployment of 3,300 soldiers to help the police deal with armed illegal miners who are also causing havoc in mining communities.
The new continenge of soldiers are join to about 900 others who were deployed in December 2022 to help police key infrastructure countrywide — and facilities of the power utility Eskom in particular.
"We already see that the support they lend to the police is quite valuable and is appreciated, not only by the police but the citizens of our country. Whenever there are safety and security challenges, they have always asked for soldiers to support the police," Ramaphosa told parliament in November.
Edited by: Benita van Eyssen