(New comments added from Prof Jan van Dijk.)
TBILISI, DFWatch–The Interior Ministry and the National Statistics Department, GeoStat, have published different statistics of the level of crime in the country.
The Statistics Department data says that the number of criminal cases has increased, while the Interior Ministry and the Interior Minister claim that the number of crime cases has been reduced.
Geostat recently published data, according to which the number of criminal prosecutions has doubled this year, compared to last year. In June 2012 there were 173 criminal cases about particularly severe crime, this year it was 368.
According to the report, in 2013, 368 criminal cases were launched for particularly severe crime, while there were 357 cases for severe crime and 1041 for less severe crime. 27 cases were launched for crimes against life and 102 for crimes against health.
On Tuesday, the Interior Ministry published statistics for the last seven months, according to which the number of crime cases has been reduced by 4 126 in 2013, compared to last year, while the percentage of new cases opened, out of total crimes, has increased from 23.1 in 2012 to 53.3 percent in 2013.
There were 20 716 instances of crime in 2012. In 4781 of those instances, a criminal case was opened.
This year 16 590 cases of crime took place, out of which 8840 led to a case being opened. Crime cases was reduced by 4 126.
The Interior Ministry’s data is based on registered crimes, while Geostat’s methodology says it collects data from the Interior Ministry, the Prosecutor’s Office and the courts.
The government’s opponents claim that the number of crimes has increased, especially after a mass amnesty which freed thousands of prisoners. There have been several controversial murder cases recently, including the murder of Mariam Kochalidze, 16, in Batumi city.
Also a man, 43, killed Koka Kekelia, 22, with a knife in Batumi a few days ago. Today, local media from Ozurgeti, western Georgia, reported that a man was shot at his own house. Later it emerged that the man was Gocha Gujabidze, who recently was released from prison following the amnesty.
Minister of Internal Affairs Irakli Gharibashvili said on Tuesday that crime has been reduced by about 30 percent and statistics of opening new cases has increased by 30 percent. He thinks this is a great achievement when about 14 000 prisoners already have left prison in Georgia.
“All of the police is really motivated, very organized and I am happy that this is the result that today, after 9 months, we have depoliticized the police,” he said. “Crime always happens in a country. Those who aren’t happy with the success of our police are enemies of our state.”
Vice Speaker of Parliament Manana Kobakhidze from the Georgian Dream coalition says that the criticism and this concern is unacceptable, as the Interior Ministry and its subordinate bodies ‘are working operationally and effectively.’
“The number of prisoners has been halved. There was a fear that the number of crimes would increase and society might be under threat, but this hasn’t happened,” she told DF Watch. “Police and law enforcement bodies work effectively and operationally, which means that the number of cases opened has increased.”
Pavle Kublashvili, a member of parliament from the United National Movement, says that the data about opening cases is not important; the important thing is that crime increases and this is alarming.
“Each of us see very clearly every day that criminal background is very severe in the country and the crimes which take place and which are reported, gives grounds for concern,” he told DFWatch.
Political commentator Kakhi Kakhishvili says that Interior Ministry publishes statistics about crime which happened during day and night in a specific period, while the Prosecutor’s Office has access to more data about the launching of criminal cases. 22 000 complaints were filed at the Prosecutor’s Office, he says, and these crimes took place during the previous government, but was investigated by the new government.
This is how he explains the incompatibility between the statistics from the Statistical Department and that from the Interior Ministry.
“So the criticism from the National Movment that crime has increased and that it was less during the previous government, is unacceptable”, he explains to DF Watch, “because the data of the Prosecutor’s Office was expanded by investigating crimes which took place during their government, and on the other hand, the fact that crime was high during their government, is proven by the number of prisoners.”
But, Kakhishvili adds, the other issue is how fairly those prisoners were detained and arrested.
“But the fact is that if there was a low level of crime, then there couldn’t have been so many prisoners in prison. If they want to prove that crime was low, then they should admit that those people were unfairly arrested.”
Professor of Victimology Jan van Dijk at Tilburg University in the Netherlands writes in an email to DFWatch that the numbers of prosecutions for serious crimes, such as homicides, are an important indicator of trends in such crimes, under the condition that the Prosecutor’s Office has not changed its standards or practices.
“I therefore consider the GEOstat statistics as an indicator that serious crime has indeed gone up in 2013. As possible explanation I refer to the large scale release of prisoners, including habitual offenders, by the incoming administration,” he writes, and adds that he is less convinced about the statistics presented by the Ministry of Internal Affairs about recorded crimes as a measure of actual common crime.
“To measure trends in common, non-serious crime the best source are victimization surveys among the public,” he writes.
One such study was conducted by the polling company GORBI in 2011 in cooperation with Georgia’s Ministry of Justice, and under the auspices of van Dijk. It found that Georgia had become one of the safest countries in Europe, and that Tbilisi had become one of the safest cities in the Western World, comparable to Lisbon or Vienna.
“As long as the 2013 survey results have not yet been released, I think we must be agnostic about whether common crime has gone up or not,” he writes.