plagued by crime spree

ALMOST a third of South African youth have been victims of crime in the past 12 months.

This according to a study released by the Centre for Justice and Crime Prevention (CJCP) in Johannesburg yesterday.

CJCP senior researcher Lezanne Leoschut said at least 27percent of the 4391 youths aged between 12 and 22 polled countrywide in the National Youth Lifestyle Study said they had been affected by crime.

"Children and youth in South Africa are victimised at rates exponentially higher than their adult counterparts," Leoschut said.

She said the recent release of the crime statistics drew attention to the levels of violence and crime experienced by children and young people.

The first National Youth Lifestyle Study was conducted in 2005 and the second last year.

According to the latest findings, 27percent of young people have fallen prey to crime between February 2007 and February last year - with theft of personal property at 10,7percent.

This was followed by assault at 8,4percent, housebreaking at 7,6percent, robbery at 5,7percent and sexual assault, including rape, at 2,1percent.

"Experiences of crime were found to be a reflection of the general disorder characterising the social environments in which they live," Leoschut said.

Violence exposure seemed to be the norm - with one in every two youths having witnessed people outside of their homes intentionally hurting one another and one tenth of young people being subjected to such violence within their own homes.

"Ease of access to alcohol, drugs and exposure to criminal role models both within the family and the broader community were also strongly associated with the likelihood of being criminally victimised," she said.

Leoschut said some of the behaviours young people engage in - such as substance use and violent-related behaviours - were also found to increase their susceptibility to crime.

"To reduce the likelihood of this, it is essential to enhance the protective factors that may buffer young people against the impact of these risk factors.

"There is an urgent need for a more comprehensive youth safety strategy that comprises various interventions," Leoschut said, adding that these should include teachers, parents and communities.