Most of the crimes committed against children were committed by children, detective services have told a parliamentary portfolio committee on police.
"A lot of these crimes are being committed by children under the age of 18 years. This is the problem that we are having, this is a new challenge that's taking place," said division commander for detectives, Ray Lalla.
Police head of statistics Chris de Kock said research indicated that most of the crimes committed against children was carried out by other children.
Child rape committed by children
"We did a study a few years ago, a docket analysis, which indicated that most of the child rape is committed by other children."
Lalla said the police services needed better trained people and that further research needed to be done to deal with the issue.
He brought the issue to light in his repeated failed attempts to give the committee reasons as to why the police's detection rate for crimes committed against children had dropped by about 3% in the past year.
Neither Lalla nor National Police Commissioner Bheki Cele could provide acceptable reasons to committee members.
Child Justice Act
Lalla said the Child Justice Act implemented in 2010 was one of the reasons why there was a decline in the police's detection rate of crimes against children.
He said the Act did not allow for all the figures to be captured onto the system and that was why the decrease had reflected.
Chairwoman, Lydia Chikunga, said this reason was unacceptable.
The committee was also unhappy that the detective services were unable to provide them with proper figures about the crimes committed by children and adults.
Chikunga said the police would probably need to change its system and requested a written explanation on the outstanding information.
Challenges facing investigators
Lalla said another challenge the police faced was at crime scenes. All crime scene investigators were not well equipped to investigate crimes.
"The initial people who attend the crime scenes, we need to give them prescripts. Real systematic, step-by-step prescripts.
"So that even at station level or at any level, the first attendee of the crime makes sure that the scene has the basic prescripts of protection," said Lalla.
He said separate crime scene and crime investigation manuals had been drawn up by detectives and prosecutors and would be published this year.
The crime investigation manual would be a checklist or tool to ensure that "when an investigator is doing his job, he complies to this checklist."
"Now what we want to do in the long run is to include it in terms of our systems so we are able to look at it... is the individual investigator complying with all these issues or are there shortcuts in the investigation."
He said the manuals would be available and rolled out within the next six months.
Meanwhile Cele said uneven growth of the police service and its sister components such as prisons contributed to a lot of the challenges faced by police.
160,000 inmates in prisons
He said there were about 160,000 inmates in prisons around the country at present.
"That gives a 40% overflow, if I'm not mistaken, if my figures are right, in the facilities."
There were about 245,000 wanted criminals. "Lets say we find them, where do we take them... this is the situation at the present moment."
More people were being arrested during police crime prevention operations, but Cele said he was not certain whether the prosecutors, the magistrates or the courts could handle these figures.
The conviction rate was held up by "processes going forward," he said.
Dockets are ready
"It's a big figure of people that are finalised and are held up by other processes going forward. It's not necessarily the investigation, dockets are ready to go to courts."
He said police were also arresting an increasing number of people who were out on parole.
"They are paroled today, they do the same thing the next day, so we have to arrest them, take them back to the system.
"I still have that idea of that person on the south coast in KZN [KwaZulu-Natal] who was paroled. He went to get his gun, and went and dealt with the witnesses that sent him to prison. The next day after parole. We also have to re-arrest that person. So there's that, that cycle," said Cele.
He said equal growth was needed within the crime prevention cluster to assist the police in doing its job. (Sapa/ March 2011)
Read more: Teens