26/08/2007 22:53 - (SA)
Sanri van Wyk, Beeld
Johannesburg - Child criminals are more likely nowadays to rape and kill than to steal.
This increase in violence in the crimes committed by children is causing great concern, says the Department of Correctional Services.
Manelisi Wolela, spokesperson for the department, told Beeld on enquiry that in 2000 children had been more likely to have been involved in"economic crimes" such as theft.
"In the past six years a disturbing pattern has emerged. Figures showed in 2006 that more children had been involved in violent crimes such as murder and rape," he said.
Wolela said from 2000 to 2006 there had been an 8% increase from 35% to 43% in the number of children admitted to institutions involved in the rehabilitation of juvenile offenders.
The number of children detained for committing economic offences decreased by 11% during this period, from 49% in 2000 to 38% in 2006.
Childline national co-ordinator, Joan van Niekerk, said sexual offenders as young as six and seven had been admitted to Child and Family Care rehabilitation programmes for juvenile criminals.
She said that there was also an increase in the number of juvenile offenders being admitted to the programmes.
"It's difficult to link this to numbers, because the police often don't open a file in such a case as they think the offenders are too young for prosecution.
Sexual offences, "bullying" and children who stole from others at school were the most common offences among children, she said.