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Last Updated: Thursday, 6 December 2007, 16:19 GMT
Fall in S Africa's violent crime
South African police
Police still have to fight an increase in robberies
South Africa has seen a marked decrease in cases of violent crime, new figures released by the country's police show.

The BBC Johannesburg correspondent says South Africa's reputation has long been tarnished by the high levels of crime.

The latest statistics suggest that the authorities are achieving their reduction targets of at least 7%.

But there is still concern about the high number of robberies, as thefts from shops, factories and small businesses are up nearly 30%.

Maximum force

The BBC's Peter Biles in Johannesburg says the fight against crime is one of the big challenges facing the South African government.

SOUTH AFRICA CRIME
UP:
- House robbery by 7%: 6,711 cases
- Business robbery by 29.3%: 4,438 cases
- Truck hijacking by 53.3%: 598 cases
DOWN:
- Murder by 6.6%: 8,925 cases
- Rape by 3.6%: 22,887 cases
- Attempted murder by 7.6%: 9,269 cases

Figures April to September 2007

So the latest crime figures comparing the six months from April to September with the same period last year will be welcome news, he says.

Seven out of eight categories of serious crime, including murder, attempted murder and rape, show a decrease.

Minister of Safety and Security Charles Nqakula says he believes the involvement of ordinary people in community policing projects has helped to bring crime levels down dramatically.

Crime in South Africa is all too often accompanied by extreme violence involving guns.

House robbers operate mainly in small groups, usually at night and normally hold up their victims with firearms, the police report says.

We are not going to tolerate anyone who uses his weapon illegally
Security minister Charles Nqakula

So the police warn maximum force will be used against criminals.

"We are not going to tolerate anyone who uses his weapon illegally in South Africa to commit a crime," Mr Nqakula told reporters.

"We will use the weapons that we have to defend ourselves and to protect innocent civilians," he said.

On the business front, small to medium-sized concerns are the usual targets, the police said.

According to Chris de Kock - head of police crime information - one of the more organised areas of crime is truck hijacking, the South African Press Association reports.

The number of truck hijackings rose from 390 in 2006 to 598 in 2007.

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