The new era of crime

In the past two years, crime rates have grown in Ukraine. Factors con­tribut­ing to the gen­eral crim­i­nal­iza­tion of so­ci­ety in­clude eco­nomic de­cline and war

The Ukrainian Week - - SOCIETY - Bo­hdan Butkevych

Ac­cord­ing to the con­sol­i­dated data of the Gen­eral Prose­cu­tor's Of­fice, in 2013 po­lice recorded 13,776 ma­jor crimes. In 2015, this fig­ure was around 21,500. In the first six months of 2016, it amounted to al­most 12,000. If the trend con­tin­ues, this num­ber will be even greater. Specif­i­cally, in the last two years the num­ber of mur­ders, rob­beries, es­pe­cially with the use of firearms, bur­glar­ies and car­jacks has in­creased dra­mat­i­cally. While in 2013 17,000 cases of bur­glary were recorded, in 2015 this fig­ure reached al­most 22,000. Car­jack­ing is the sec­ond most pop­u­lar crime. Over the past two years, the num­ber of car­jacks in­creased from 3,800 to 6,900. The num­ber of homi­cides also grew, from 5,900 to 8,200.

"The over­all crime rate is grow­ing, I agree. Un­for­tu­nately, there are ob­jec­tive rea­sons for this," says Kha­tia Dekanoidze, Head of the Na­tional Po­lice. "First of all, the eco­nomic sit­u­a­tion in the coun­try has been de­te­ri­o­rat­ing since 2012, and this is al­ways ac­com­pa­nied by an in­crease in crime. Once the liv­ing stan­dards start de­clin­ing, crime rates start ris­ing, es­pe­cially as far as prop­erty crimes are con­cerned. Se­condly, the war has been go­ing on since 2014, con­tribut­ing to the spread of or­ga­nized crime and an in­crease in illegal arms traf­fick­ing. Thirdly, the num­ber of crimes should not be con­cealed to im­prove sta­tis­tics, and we are now tak­ing the ap­pro­pri­ate mea­sures to that end."

The lat­ter ar­gu­ment was taken on board by the of­fi­cials stat­ing that pre­vi­ously many crimes were con­cealed, while now they are be­ing hon­est and open. That cre­ates an im­pres­sion that there was a sharp spike. "In 2016, half the num­ber of cases was fi­nal­ized com­pared to 2015. My pri­or­ity is not to show good sta­tis­tics. It is im­por­tant to show peo­ple that there is a prob­lem, a case has been filed and the po­lice are tak­ing care of it. Of course, the crime clear­ance rate has also de­creased, but this is due to many factors," Dekanoidze said. At the same time, she men­tioned the suc­cess­ful work of the po­lice to curb il­licit arms traf­fick­ing and com­bat or­ga­nized crime.

The rea­sons of such dy­nam­ics are ob­vi­ous: the war in Don­bas and eco­nomic cri­sis. How­ever, the cri­sis be­gan to man­i­fest it­self long be­fore the Maidan events, and was ac­com­pa­nied by a rise in crime. "The crime rate started grow­ing in 2013, not now, in the last six months, not af­ter the Na­tional Po­lice was es­tab­lished. In fact, crime rate has been on the rise since 2012. It's just that in the last year and a half it be­came more ob­vi­ous," Dekanoidze re­it­er­ated.

The level of crime de­tec­tion has de­clined, ac­cord­ing to the In­te­rior Min­istry, af­ter the agency gave up on im­prov­ing sta­tis­tics on pa­per. Nev­er­the­less, over the past two tur­bu­lent years, the war played a de­ci­sive role in the rise of crime. First of all, it sup­plied a huge num­ber of weapons to the black mar­ket, mak­ing it easy for most crim­i­nals to pro­cure firearms. As The Ukrainian Week found out, to­day a stan­dard Makarov gun can eas­ily be bought in Kyiv for $300–400. And the closer you are to the ATO area, the cheaper and eas­ier it is to get weapons, not only guns, but also as­sault ri­fles, grenades, grenade launch­ers, and ma­chine guns. All these weapons have al­ready started to "speak." Ac­cord­ing to both the In­te­rior Min­istry and the in­de­pen­dent ex­perts, to­day 3–4 mil­lion illegal weapon pieces are cir­cu­lat­ing in the coun­try.


The sec­ond factor, ac­cord­ing to crim­i­nol­o­gist Anna Mal­yar, which is not dis­cussed pub­licly for the sake of po­lit­i­cal cor­rect­ness, is the forced mi­grants from Don­bas, of whom there are now more than 1.5 mil­lion across the Ukrainian ter­ri­tory, ac­cord­ing to the most con­ser­va­tive es­ti­mates. Ob­vi­ously, not all these peo­ple were suc­cess­ful in start­ing a new life, es­pe­cially in the cir­cum­stances where the state al­most aban­doned them to their own fate, pro­vid­ing a rather con­ven­tional as­sis­tance. It is not sur­pris­ing, there­fore, that many of them will­ingly or un­will­ingly chose the path of crime and started to earn money by com­mit­ting of­fenses.

Another is­sue, which the MIA does not like to dis­cuss, is the pro­fes­sional com­pe­tency of its em­ploy­ees. For the past two years, this agency has been un­der­go­ing con­stant lus­tra­tions, cer­ti­fi­ca­tions, re­forms, etc. Of course, they are nec­es­sary, but all of this has a very neg­a­tive im­pact on the abil­ity of the law en­force­ment of­fi­cers to per­form their func­tions. The Ukrainian Week has al­ready writ­ten more than once that the smoke­screen of the new pa­trol po­lice is sim­ply hid­ing the un­re­formed in­ves­tiga­tive and op­er­a­tional staff, which is ar­guably the most im­por­tant part of the

MIA ap­pa­ra­tus. Roughly speak­ing, these are those who are sup­posed to find out about a crime, to in­ves­ti­gate it, to ap­pre­hend crim­i­nals, and to prove their guilt in court.

To­day we have a sit­u­a­tion where the in­ves­tiga­tive and op­er­a­tional units have for the most part avoided the lus­tra­tion and re-cer­ti­fi­ca­tion pro­cesses. How­ever, many pro­fes­sion­als who still worked for the agency have left with­out wait­ing for the checks, also be­cause on the wave of ha­tred to­wards the po­lice af­ter the Maidan events, all their fi­nan­cial bonuses and awards were cut down, leav­ing them with their mod­est salaries. This caused the out­flow of a con­sid­er­able num­ber of law en­force­ment em­ploy­ees.

Yet another factor that should not be for­got­ten is the con­tro­ver­sial "Savchenko's bill," whereby one day spent by a de­fen­dant in SIZO, the pre-trial de­ten­tion cen­ter, equals two days in prison. The law was spon­sored by Batkivshchyna, ini­ti­ated by Na­dia Savchenko and sup­ported by many hu­man rights ac­tivists as a tool to speed up pre-trial con­sid­er­a­tion of cases. It came into force on De­cem­ber 24, 2015, and has since been ap­plied to about 40,000 peo­ple. Now, po­lice, lawyers, Jus­tice Min­istry and many hu­man rights ac­tivists are unan­i­mous in stat­ing that many peo­ple con­victed for grave of­fenses walk free as a re­sult of it.

The ef­fect of the eco­nomic cri­sis is self-ex­plana­tory: over the last two years, Ukraini­ans have be­come no­tice­ably poorer. The un­em­ploy­ment rate grew sig­nif­i­cantly, many peo­ple have been thrown idle and know no other ways of earn­ing their bread be­side crime. Add to this the work­force clus­ters in ma­jor cities, which fur­ther in­crease the risk of of­fenses.

Ex­perts say that Ukrainian so­ci­ety is now ap­proach­ing the crime lev­els of the 1990s. The prob­lem here is not so much the crime rate, as the re­turn to crim­i­nal behaviors which, on the one hand, pushes the dis­ad­van­taged seg­ments of the pop­u­la­tion to the path of crime and, on the other, cre­ates pub­lic dis­trust in the gov­ern­ment's abil­ity to pro­tect or­di­nary cit­i­zens. Such things cre­ate last­ing neg­a­tive re­sults that we all had a chance to wit­ness in Don­bas, which was the heart of the so­called black de­mo­graphic zone, that is, the re­gion with con­sis­tently high rates of crime, mor­tal­ity and dis­eases like HIV/AIDS or Hepati­tis C. Now, the en­tire ter­ri­tory of the coun­try could be­come such a zone.

The sit­u­a­tion in Ukraine is very typ­i­cal of all coun­tries that en­ter such tur­bu­lence – such as Croa­tia in the 1990s. It also faced an orgy of law­less­ness and crim­i­nal­iza­tion of so­ci­ety in the coun­try. So­lu­tions to this are triv­ial and ob­vi­ous: in­creased ef­fi­ciency of law en­force­ment agen­cies through re­form, staff turnover, and wage hike; sta­bi­liza­tion of the eco­nomic sit­u­a­tion, which al­lows an in­creas­ingly large part of the pop­u­la­tion to earn daily bread with nor­mal, le­git­i­mate work.

Another way to nor­mal­ize the sit­u­a­tion is to solve the is­sue of the huge num­ber of illegal weapons in cir­cu­la­tion. Many ex­perts sug­gest us­ing the Moldovan ex­pe­ri­ence, where the same prob­lem arose 20 years ago fol­low­ing the mil­i­tary con­flict in Transnis­tria. The so­lu­tion was to adopt the law al­low­ing civil­ian firearm pos­ses­sion. It was sup­posed to en­cour­age re­spectable cit­i­zens who had bought weapons for self­de­fense to reg­is­ter them with the po­lice, be­cause crim­i­nals have them any­way.

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