Crime rate falls in South Africa

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The Independent Online

Crime rates in South Africa — among the highest in the world — are declining with fewer robberies, rapes and murders reported in the last year, police said.

But there are still more than 50 people killed every day — a statistic that has helped the country earn an international reputation for violence. And the number of children murdered went up by 22.2 percent, police said yesterday.

The government welcomed the overall declines, but said crime levels were still much too high as South Africa prepares to host the 2010 World Cup soccer tournament.

"The government is still concerned that, while they are going down, the levels of crime continue to be unacceptably high," Safety and Security Minister Charles Nqakula said.

Police said crime statistics from April 2007 to March 2008 show the number of murders dropped 4.7 percent to 18,487, compared with the previous year.

Incidents of rape in the same period decreased 8.8 percent, but this still amounted to a staggering 36,000 women were raped.

Nqakula said that the number, even if less than in the last year, was still too high to indicate significant improvement.

"The government would have wanted to see a more drastic decrease" in crime rates, the minister said.

The number of children murdered went up 22.2 percent, from 1,152 to 1,410, said Chris de Kock, head of crime information management for the police.

Most of those victims were aged 16 to 18 and were killed by other children, often in gang-related situations, he said.

This is "a very, very serious issue," Kock said, noting that the number of attempted murders against children also increased by 13.7 percent.

Figures show that the murder level is at its lowest since 1994, and serious violent crimes such as robbery, assault and attempted murder decreased by 6.4 percent.

However, house robberies increased by 13.5 percent and carjackings by 4.4 percent, while robberies at businesses rose 47.4 percent.

The opposition party Independent Democrats also welcomed the decline in crime, but said that policing alone would not solve South Africa's problems.

"Until we deal convincingly with poverty and socio-economic problems and the crisis within our social fabric, crime will remain a huge a problem in our country," Independent Democratic lawmaker Haniff Hoosen said in a statement.

Another opposition party, the Democratic Alliance, was skeptical about the results, saying in a statement that the decrease in crime could simply be because fewer people were reporting crimes.