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CRIME OPENS UP A SECOND FRONT
The rise in crime always accompanies social upheavals, and the country’s population feels it on an everyday level. Yet official statistics suggest a decrease in crime. However, people are skeptical about such reports, since they often face various kinds of offenses in person or constantly hear about them from friends, colleagues and neighbors.
We tried to understand the reasons for the growth of crime in Ukraine over the past year, as well as to find out why statistics contradict reality and ways for minimization of the risk of becoming a victim of crime.Yet, for some reason, such encouraging figures do not have much credibility among the population, which has been facing all types of offences constantly and almost everywhere this year much more than in the past.
FIGURES ARE INCOMPATIBLE WITH FACTS AND PERCEPTION
When statistics is perceived as one of the kinds of lies, there is a great amount of truth in it. Especially when figures are manipulated by pulling them out of context or complicating the general picture to the extent when it becomes impossible to understand the heart of things. This is practiced by both law enforcement agencies, on the one hand, and the media – on the other. We will get back to crime stats a bit later, but for now we will give a recent example of manipulation in the media. Back in October Adviser to the Interior Minister Stanislav Rechynskiy said on a TV channel that the number of armed robberies and assaults has increased by 40% because of the seizure of armories and arsenals in January and February 2014. Some media reported at once that the Interior Ministry acknowledged that after the Euromaidan crime rate in Ukraine increased by 40%.
Also, crime is a very extensive concept, and the numbers alone do not mean much. Crafty statistics dissolves in the same mixture an apartment robbery with a double murder and an old lady selling some sunflower seeds in the wrong place.
Perhaps therefore, people’s mood can be considered a more objective indicator of rising crime, because the growth comes with perceptions, when almost every first person faces offenses or their friends or colleagues become victims: someone’s apartment was broken into and robbed, someone’s wallet was stolen in public transport, someone’s car was jacked, someone’s cell phone was taken away, etc. And in this context people’s statuses in social networks and forums often reflect the true situation more accurately than the official statistics.
BORN IN REVOLUTION
An increase in crime rates after the events in the Euromaidan and the ATO seems to be absolutely natural and understandable. “It would be surprising if in such circumstances the crime rates had not increased,” says Doctor of Law Vladyslav Chudnovskiy. “After the change of power in the country and the leadership in the ministry the law enforcement agencies were demoralized; some employees resigned, some were sent to the ATO zone; some of them simply frozen in anticipation of lustration and reform. There were almost no patrol on the streets. This creates favorable conditions for rampant crime. The country has a huge number of refugees, displaced persons, and at the same time people came across the unprecedented amount of firearms. All this is happening against the background of the growing economic and financial crisis, deterioration of living standards, rising unemployment – that is a perfect medium for crime. “After the amnesty bill adopted in April, more than 20,000 convicts were granted early release from prisons, which also contributed to the increase in crime.
Police veteran excol. Valeriy Koryakin notes that the increase in the number of burglaries (which are mainly committed by professional thieves) is connected with the fact that people withdrew their money from the banks and keep it at home.
Crime analyst Oleh Yeltsov draws attention to the increase in the number of crimes involving firearms. He says once it was in fashion to carry a gun, now it is trendy to have an AK rifle. It is not a problem to buy a firearm: on the black market a Kalashnikov costs approximately US $700, and a Makarov pistol – close to UA $350. In the ATO zone it is easy to get hold of a Kalashnikov only for US $100. Some residents of Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts, moving to other regions, bring weapons along with them. More and more people, who had problems with the law, move from the Donbas to the rest of Ukrainian territory along with the lawabiding citizens. “We will have to deal with consequences of the current situation for decades to come,” says Yeltsov.
Car thefts and stealing from vehicles got more frequent, as well as hijacking of bicycles.
Ukrainian crime gets younger. During the first 6 months of 2014 the level of juvenile crime has increased by 57.1%, and most of all in Dnipropetrovsk, Donetsk, Zaporizhzhya, Kirovohrad, Luhansk, Mykolayiv and Odesa oblasts. More than half of the 2,300 crimes were grave offenses and felonies. Almost 700 teenagers committed crimes again.
The saddest thing is that we see an increase in the proportion of felonies (involving the penalty of ten years to life). For nine months they amounted to 14.2% compared to 7.4% in the corresponding period of 2013. In particular, the number of robberies has increased to 2,116 against 1,904, respectively.
Nevertheless, mostly statistics of the PGO shows that over six months there have been 206,928 thefts against 239,892 in the same period last year, and 12,363 robberies (against 15,180) 42,538 cases of fraud (against 64,798), and so on in the same optimistic spirit. So, what is the matter?
In order to understand the intricacies of crime statistics, it is necessary to take several criteria into account. First of all, statistics of the year do not fully include the figures from Crimea and some parts of Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts, which are the ATO zone. This automatically and essentially reduces the number of crimes in favor of 2014. In addition, we must distinguish between the actually committed crimes and the crimes recorded by the police, and offenses for which the prosecutor’s office opened criminal cases. These three positions are naturally not the same, and the prosecutor’s office operates and makes publicly known the third group of crimes. And when there is no case, it is as if there was no crime. Although the affected people feel totally different. And another thing: the reporting system in the prosecutor’s office is very complex, the crimes are classified based on 19 criteria (against property, against life and health, in regard to economic activity, in regard to public order, etc.) and presented based on 16 types of proceedings (initiated, dismissed, withdrawn, submitted to the court, closed, etc.). It is difficult to understand this mass of data, but it is possible to use it for extraction of some figures for manipulative presentation to the public.
That is why statistics is discredited. Significant drop in crime statistics is explained not by some objective processes in society, which contributed to the decline in the crime rate in the country, but only by a change in the law enforcers’ approach to registration of committed crimes on paper. The system of the Unified Register of Pretrial Investigations of Ukraine was introduced after the new Criminal Procedure Code entered into force on November 19, 2012. And while in 2013 law enforcement officers were still afraid to ignore reports from citizens about crimes, which necessarily had to be entered in the register, on a wide scale, this year, in terms of administrative chaos in the country, the refusal to register such reports has become commonplace. There are also other forms of fraud with the Unified Register of Pretrial Investigations by law enforcement officers.
In this regard, it makes sense to consider alternative indicators of the state of crime in different regions and cities of Ukraine to obtain a relatively correct idea of the state of affairs. For example, look at the crime rate, calculated as the ratio of reported crimes per 1,000 people. It is also interesting to look at the table of crime rate drawn by the Pravoviy Zakhyst company in Kharkiv. It is based on surveys of residents in different cities. The survey consists of 15 items which are ranked by respondents, assessing the level of risk of various aspects of security and crime like crime rate, crime trend, personal safety in daytime, personal safety at night, illegal entry into private property etc. The number of more than 1,000 respondents provides a margin of error of 5%. People’s feelings are an important and quite objective indicator.
DO MY POLICE PROTECT ME?
Another factor in the growth of crime – lack of proper opposition with the law enforcers. Åhere are 542 police officers per 100,000 people in Ukraine, according to official data from the Interior Ministry. This is a very high figure, given that the average global index per the same number of population is 300 policemen.
At the same time, according to the Kharkiv Institute for Social Studies, the level of trust in the law enforcement bodies in Ukraine is very low: only one in four respondents (25.9%) trusts the police. In addition, only a quarter of respondents (25.2%) assesses police work as efficient, and more than half (51.3%) mention its inefficiency. In Ukraine police and prosecutor’s offices are considered to be the most corrupt institutions. No wonder law enforcement officers joke that even Rockefeller would envy police generals in corrupt countries.
Certain hopes are placed on the reform of the Interior Ministry, the draft of which is reflected in the coalition agreement. According to the project, it is expected that the National Police will be created in the structure of the ministry, which will include public security police (up to 70% of staff), criminal police, special purpose and rapid response units, and judicial police. Within the framework of creation of the National Police there are plans to create a new system of certification of police based on international experience, conduct a thorough reevaluation of police in compliance with the new criteria and update the police personnel. Plans are good, but there is no hope for their rapid implementation.
TRENDS OVER NUMBERS
Experts are unanimously pessimistic about the further development of the situation with crime in Ukraine and predict a new surge in violation of laws in winter 2014 – spring 2015. The worsening economic situation in the country, rising unemployment and lack of actual changes will create the basis for such a burst. In addition, the announced reform of the Interior Ministry, at best, will bring the first results in almost a year. Yeltsov believes that within the next year the law enforcement system will not protect citizens from crime. And Professor of the Department of Criminal Process and Criminal Investigation at the Academy of Advocacy of Ukraine Viktor Boyarov predicts a severe deterioration in the criminal pattern when “looting” battalions will return from the ATO zone.
The basis for confronting the crime is the growth of economy and political will of the government. In the meantime, experts give ordinary citizens traditional recommendations relevant for all times: install alarm systems in apartments and armored doors; do not open doors to strangers; do not walk alone at night; do not to flash jewelry or expensive gadgets; carry some means of selfdefense and know how to use them. In general, as they say, better safe than sorry.Printable version