Poverty is one of the major factors contributing to the current surge in violent crimes, the Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation (CSVR) said on Monday.

Releasing the CSVR's preliminary report on the causes of violence in the country, CSVR representative David Bruce said poverty played a role in the commission of serious offences such as murder, rape and aggravated robbery.

"High levels of inequality contribute to undermining self confidence and self respect," he said.

South Africa's economic structure, with high levels of poverty and unemployment, created conditions for the proliferation of violent crimes.

Bruce said the study, commissioned by the safety and security department, also highlighted a lack of parenting skills as one of the factors contributing to violent crimes, particularly in instances where children were victims.

The acceptance by many South Africans that crime and violence were normal characteristics of society also contributed to the rise in serious offences.

Bruce said there was a need for the country's criminal investigation capacity to be strengthened and the current culture of crime to be dismantled, if police were to win the war against violent crime.

Speaking at the briefing, Safety and Security Minister Charles Nqakula said the study would provide the government with a better understanding of the nature of violent crimes in the country.

Nqakula said it was particularly important for the government to understand reasons behind the current surge in crimes being committed by children.

By the end of May there were 3 000 children in detention at various centres in the country.

Murder, rape and violent assault were some of the main crimes being committed by children, Nqakula said. - Sapa