LUANDA, July 15 (Reuters) - Police in Angola, one of Africa’s biggest oil producers, are struggling to contain a surge in gang-related crime and rape cases in a nation where the majority of the population is young and poor, a senior police official was quoted as saying on Wednesday.
"What has worried us is that lately crimes have become repulsive, violent. We are investigating how these criminals act," the commander of the National Police, Paulo de Almeida, was cited by the state-owned Jornal de Angola as saying.
"These (gangs) are growing like mushrooms. Something is going on and it is not because of lack of police control."
He said most of the gang members were young males between 14 and 30 years old and were active in some of the thousands of shanty towns surrounding cities like the capital Luanda where there is little police control.
In the first six months of the year, Angolan police registered 442 crimes committed by juveniles — most of them males.
"There are crimes committed by children that are only 11 years old. Robberies, offences against the person but also rape are the most common crimes committed by these youngsters," de Almeida said.
Some experts say crime increases with poverty and that teenagers and young adults commit more crimes than those from other age groups. The median age in Angola’s 16.5 million population is 18.
Thanks to surging oil production, Angola’s economy has been booming ever since it emerged from a devastating civil war in 2002 but most Angolans remain as poor as ever.
An estimated two-thirds live on less than $2 a day, according to the World Bank. Angola rivals Nigeria as Africa’s biggest oil producer.
Asked what Angolan police were more concerned about, de Almeida replied: "crimes of rape are taking place daily.
"It’s a phenomenon that nobody can explain. In Luanda we register three to four rape cases per day. On a national level, there are 10 cases per day. It’s a lot. The situation is worrying and tends to get worse." (Reporting by Henrique Almeida; Editing by Giles Elgood)