By Nane Atshemian
The Armenian police reported on Thursday a 4.4 percent decrease in the number of officially registered crimes committed during the first nine months of this year. The information contrasted with police figures for the first half of 2004 that showed a 4.5 percent rise in crime compared with the same period last year.
“The overall rate of crime has tended to decrease during the first nine months of the year,” Sayad Shirinian, the spokesman for the national Police Service, told a news conference. “Also, the percentage of solved cases is higher than it was last year.”
It was not clear if the police found a major drop in crime during the third quarter of the year. Presenting the first-half figures on August 4, the deputy chief of the police, General Ararat Mahtesian, admitted that the Armenian government’s spring crackdown on the opposition left his officers with less time and fewer resources to combat crime. The crackdown involved mass detentions of opposition activists and a heavy police presence at anti-government rallies.
Mahtesian also blamed the increased delinquency on Armenia’s new, more lenient criminal code that came into effect in August 2003. It also led to the earlier-than-expected release from jail of more than 800 convicts.
According to Shirinian, a total of 8,098 crimes, nearly a third of them “serious,” were reported to the police from January through the end of September. He said despite the overall drop in the number of offences there have been more cases of theft, robbery, fraud as well as illegal arms and drug possession.
The official also said that 172 people, 17 of them children, have died in 872 road accidents across Armenia this year. “The main causes of road accidents continue to be speeding and violations of overtaking rules,” he said.
Shirinian added that Armenia’s overall rate of delinquency remains low by ex-Soviet standards, with an average of 25 crimes per 10,000 people committed annually. The figure is 143 and 83 in Russia and Ukraine respectively.