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(Updates with analyst comment from seventh paragraph.)
Sept. 8 (Bloomberg) -- South Africa’s murder rate fell for a fifth straight year as the government expanded the police force and allocated more money to fighting crime.
A total of 15,940 murders, or 31.9 per 100,000 people, were committed in the 12 months through March, down from 16,834 homicides, or 34.1 per 100,000 people, the previous year, the South African Police Service said in a report released in Pretoria today. The incidence of most other crimes also declined.
The “statistics confirm our assertion that indeed the tide against crime is turning and that police, joined by society, are gaining an upper hand against vicious criminals,” Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa told reporters. “Victory against crime is now an achievable goal.”
President Jacob Zuma’s administration has identified the fight against crime, which is fueled by a 25.7 percent unemployment rate, as a top priority. Spending on public order and safety rose an average 13.1 percent annually over the three years through March this year, and accounts for about 9 percent of total government expenditure.
The number of personnel employed by the police force is projected to reach 200,600 in the current fiscal year, up from 190,199 at the end of March 2010, according to government data.
Rapes Cases Increase
South Africa’s murder rate has fallen from 67.9 per 100,000 people in 1995, when an integrated national police force was created and national statistics were compiled for the first time. It is still more than six times higher than that of the U.S., according to U.S. Disaster Center data.
“There has been a very big improvement” in South Africa’s crime statistics, Gareth Newham, an analyst who heads the Institute for Security Studies’ crime and justice program, said by phone from Pretoria. “We have seen quite a big shift in a number of reported crime categories. The police are doing a better job and there are a lot more of them.”
The number of assault cases declined 4.5 percent, attacks on cash-transit vans fell 29 percent, car hijackings decreased 24 percent and truck hijackings dropped 29 percent, the police report showed. Bank robberies fell 58 percent while commercial crimes increased 2.8 percent.
The number of reported sexual offenses fell 3.1 percent, even as the number of rape cases rose 2.1 percent to 56,272.
“The number of reported cases of rape still remains unacceptably high,” Mthethwa said. “We cannot seriously say we are winning the war against rape.”
Ninety-four police officers were killed on duty over the 12 months, down from 100 a year earlier, while 49 of the country’s 50 most-wanted criminals were arrested.
“By international standards South Africa remains a dangerous society,” Frans Cronje, deputy chief executive officer of the Johannesburg-based South African Institute of Race Relations, said in an e-mailed statement. “However, the data suggests that progress is slowly being made in securing a safer society. This is most probably due to the joint efforts of the South African Police Service and the private security industry,” which now has twice as many active personnel as the police.
--Editors: Gordon Bell, Louis Meixler
To contact the reporters on this story: Brian Latham in Johannesburg at firstname.lastname@example.org; Mike Cohen in Cape Town Nef at email@example.com
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