Police Commissioner Bheki Cele told a news conference "The first three months of this year were violent, brutal and unsafe for many South Africans."
In 2022's first three months, 6,083 people were killed. That's a 22.2 percent increase from 2021's same period.
The number of children murdered then was especially alarming: 306 dead, a 37.2 percent increase, he said.
Reported sexual offenses rose by 13.7 percent, with 10,818 people raped.
Kidnappings showed the sharpest increase, with 3,306 cases reported -- more than double the number from a year ago.
Cele said "The question is what went wrong," adding "Honestly, no answer justifies these dismal figures."
He vowed to weed out corrupt cops, better equip officers, and to improve relations with mistrustful communities where the dire police response to crime has led to vigilantism.
"Police alone cannot win the fight against crime. We need deeper partnerships with communities built on trust," he said.