Almost 70% of South Africans feel unsafe at night, even though their experiences of crime have declined, Statistician General Pali Lehohla said on Tuesday.
"The crime, although declining in their experiences, is probably not reaching the threshold where they feel safe and secure," said Lehohla.
The survey found that in the year 2011, 931 000 people said they had experienced at least one incident of housebreaking, burglary or home robbery. This dropped to 807 000 for 2015/16, but it was not enough to make them feel safer.
The Statistician General said researchers had also found that, apart from murder and car theft, crime was under-reported because people felt it was either not serious enough, or that the police could or would not do anything about it.
Housebreaking or burglary was named as the most common crime in South Africa, with murder perceived as the least common among those surveyed.
Crime reporting rates also varied depending on the type of crime. Murder was the most reported, at 95%, while stock theft was the least reported, at 17.3%.
The researchers found there had been a decline in the number of people (89.2% to 83.7%) who said they felt safe walking in their area of residence during the day. The percentage of people who felt safe walking around their community at night had dropped from 36.9% in 2001 to 30.7% for 2015/16.
Thirty-three percent of people surveyed for 2015/16 said the fear of crime stopped them from going to parks and open spaces, compared to 32.3% in 2011.
Of those surveyed, 77.5% blamed drug-related needs as the reason for committing crimes.
About half of the 30 000 households surveyed said they took physical protection measures to protect themselves against crime and, said Lehohla, a further study was needed to establish how much money people were spending on this. He said that at last count, the government had spent R30bn, while private households had spent R45bn.
Murder and car theft topped the list of crimes that were reported to police.
Researchers also noted public satisfaction with police had dropped to 58.8% for 2015/16, compared with 64.2% in 2011.
"It is a very serious indictment that that people have lost hope that the police can do something about it," said Lehohla.
During the question-and-answer session, he said a further study could establish whether leadership changes within the police had something to do with this.
Lehohla urged people to report any crime to the police, as these statistics were vital to the police's planning and the government's policies and strategies on crime prevention.
He said Statistics SA was currently helping the police improve their own crime statistics gathering and presentation process.
Statistics SA did not consider the police's statistics as official and aimed to eventually take over this function.