The Plessislaer area is one of the crime capitals of KwaZulu-Natal, and ranks among the worst in the country for murder, rape and assault crimes.The policing precinct, which encompasses 19 wards, has seen its violent crime rates soar from last year, and is fourth worst in the country for house robberies with 1 219 cases in the last year alone — a rate of some 23 per week.The 166 murders in the area last year were by far the most in the last 10 years, the crime statistics have shown.Minister of Police Bheki Cele on Thursday released the latest crime statistics for the period April last year to March this year.Cele announced that nationally there were 21 022 murders in the latest stats — 686 more than the previous year and an increase of 3,4%%.Sexual offences increased by 4,6%% to 52 420 offences — 2 312 more than the year before.The stats showed that the province was still struggling with high murder rates, with just under 4 400 cases reported.KZN saw a staggering 7 667 cases of rape reported, 400 more than the previous period.There were 9 308 cases of sexual assault reported.Cele in April this year met with residents in Caluza and said the police manpower in the area was severely lacking. He had also noted that police were inundated with complaints of incompetence at some stations in the city.The Witness also revealed previously that Plessislaer was rock bottom in the entire country in terms of the number of rape kits it needed.The crime statistics paint a grim picture of the Plessislaer policing precinct, which has in previous years battled with low staff numbers and inadequate resources to service its large area.The Plessislaer policing precinct reported:An almost 60%% increase in murders, making it ninth worst in the country;A small drop in attempted murders, but with 116 cases the station was still 20th in the country;An increase in sexual offences and rape, making it 19th and 16th overall, respectively;The station was 11th in the country for assault with intent to commit grievous bodily harm, with 780 cases;The station was 17th for overall contact crimes, with 2 919 cases — nearly eight per day, and was 13th in the country for common assault with 884 cases;It was eighth worst for illegal possession of firearms and ammunition, with 123 cases — a 40%% increase from the previous period;Plessislaer ranked 27th in the country for malicious damage to property with 470 cases, although that was a drop of 24 cases from the previous year; andThere were 102 cases of robbery at businesses, placing Plessislaer 19th in the country.“The problem is that the manpower for Plessislaer is not enough,” said Sifiso Mavundla, the Plessislaer CPF chairperson. “That’s the main issue.”Mavundla said the lack of manpower meant satellite stations in Imbali and Sweetwaters — for which the CPF had lobbied for years — were generally understaffed.He said, however, that a task team to deal with crime in the area was deployed in July, and the area has seen a drop in some crimes, like robbery, since.“But murder, rape and hijacking is still a problem. And what will happen when the task team leaves?”Mavundla said problem areas were Imbali and Esigodini, which saw political killings and taxi violence. He believed other contributors to the murder rate was regular criminality.“It’s very bad, but we’re trying to make things better,” he said.Police spokesperson Sergeant Mthokozisi Ngobese declined to comment, saying that the statistics were being dealt with at the ministerial level. He said he had not yet seen the stats when speaking to The Witness on Thursday afternoon.