By Hovannes Shoghikian
The Armenian police have solved fewer crimes this year because they were busy enforcing official results of the February presidential election and cracking down on the opposition after the post-election unrest, a senior police official said on Tuesday.
The police claim to have solved less than 69 percent of 6,825 crimes officially registered across Armenia in the first nine months of this year. The proportion was down from almost 72 percent reported during the same period of 2007. The police statistics show that the drop in the efficiency rate was particularly steep in the category of murders and other serious crimes.
“That is mainly conditioned by the presidential elections and the post-election developments,” Colonel Sayat Shirinian, the chief spokesman for the national police service, told a news conference. “You are well aware that police units of the Republic of Armenia were overloaded with work. That fact could not have failed to reflect on the effectiveness of solving crimes.”
Shirinian assured journalists that the police will improve their performance in the coming months.
The police played a key role in the bloody March 1 suppression of post-election demonstrations staged in Yerevan by the opposition presidential candidate Levon Ter-Petrosian. More than a hundred of his supporters were arrested in the following weeks.
The police efficiency has decreased even faster in absolute terms, given an almost 5 percent increase in the total number of crimes which the police say were committed in Armenia from January-September 2008.
Shirinian attributed the increase to a crackdown on the underreporting of crimes by police divisions across the country. He insisted that the situation with crimes is “fully under control” despite an unprecedented series of deadly shootings reported late last month. He said most of them have already been solved.
According to the police figures, Armenia’s crime rate remains significantly below that of Russia, Ukraine and other former Soviet republics.