Murders leapt by about two-thirds in Macau in the last year of Portuguese rule. Macau logged 9,262 crimes in total last year, an increase of 9.1 per cent on the 8,487 recorded by the police in 1998. The tiny enclave, which had 438,000 residents at the end of last year, had an average 25 reported crimes a day last year according to figures from the statistics and census office. The number of murders reached 42 last year, a growth of nearly two-thirds compared with 1998 when 26 were recorded. Last year's number of murders was the highest in recent history. The enclave, which recorded 32 homicides in 1997, was rocked by a turf war among triad gangs on the fringes of the gaming industry in the mid- and late-1990s, resulting in dozens of gangland-style revenge killings, fire-bombings and arson attacks. There were 1,146 cases of assault and battery, up 16 per cent on the previous year, and 5,503 cases of theft, robbery and other crimes against property, down five per cent. The total also included 456 cases of forgery and counterfeiting, an increase of 97 per cent. A senior police officer said: 'The nine per cent increase in the number of crimes under the Portuguese administration should serve as a warning to the new government of the Macau Special Administrative Region that the fight against crime must not slacken. 'The hidden danger of triads still lurks in every corner.' President Jiang Zemin praised Macau's new Special Administrative Region Government in Beijing last week for its efforts in fighting crime. At least 39 motorcycles were torched in a string of arson attacks early last week. A police spokesman blamed young hooligans for the attacks. Macau Chief Executive Edmund Ho Hau-wah said last Friday his administration would propose to the legislature that the age of criminal responsibility, which is 16 years, be lowered. Several community leaders have meanwhile suggested that the age be reduced to 14, following the example of the mainland. Macau police say the problem is that local triad gangs use teenagers under 16 to commit a number of specific crimes, namely arson attacks, jetfoil ticket scalping and theft, because they know that they cannot be held criminally liable for the offences.