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South African police report decrease in violent crime; government says numbers still too high
In this file photo dated March 15, 2001, a gang member with prison tattoos sits at the police station in Mannenburg, Cape Town, South Africa, after being arrested for marijuana possession. In crime statistics released Monday, June 30, 2008, in Pretoria, South Africa, police said that crime is on the decline in the country with fewer robberies, rapes and murders but more than 50 people are still killed every day. - photo by ASSOCIATED PRESS/file
    PRETORIA, South Africa — 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 Monday.
    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.
    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 raped.
    Nqakula said that the number of rapes, even if less than in the last year, was still too high to indicate the ‘‘scourge is lessening.’’
    ‘‘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 16-18 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 the murder level at its lowest since 1994 and serious violent crimes such as robbery, assault and attempted murder are down 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 Independent Democrats said that policing alone would not solve the crime problem. Instead, South Africa needed to deal with ‘‘poverty and socio-economic problems and the crisis within our social fabric,’’ party lawmaker Haniff Hoosen said in a statement.
    South Africa’s crime-fighting abilities have been hampered by a leadership vacuum within the police. National Police Chief Jackie Selebi is facing corruption charges and is on extended leave.
    Many also fear the planned disbanding of the prosecutor’s elite crime busting unit, known as the Scorpions, will worsen South Africa’s ability to combat crime.
    Police have been left with a sense of uncertainty about the force’s future, and ‘‘uncertainty is one thing that we certainly don’t have the luxury of affording,’’ said analyst Johan Burger with the Pretoria-based Institute for Security Studies.
    The police said, however, they would be ready for the 2010 soccer tournament, having received rands 665 million (US$84.5 million; euro53.6 million) for equipment including 10 water cannons, six helicopters and 10 unmanned aircraft fitted with cameras.
    The country submitted its tournament security plan to the world soccer governing body in Geneva on Monday, police director Andre Pruis said.
    ‘‘I think FIFA will be satisfied,’’ he said.

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