By Karine Kalantarian
The Office of Prosecutor-General reported on Friday a drastic decrease in the number of crimes registered by the Armenian law-enforcement authorities during the first half of this year.
Official statistics released during a meeting of Armenia’s top prosecutors showed the total number of various offences committed in the country falling by as much as 18 percent to 4,389. According to the prosecutors, only 24 of them were murders, down from 30 such crimes registered by them during the same period last year.
Deputy Prosecutor-General Mnatsakan Sargsian told the meeting that the crime rate decreased in Yerevan and virtually all other parts of the country. He said there was only a slight increase in deadly car crashes, robberies, bribery and money counterfeiting.
The latest statistics follow a 9 percent fall in crime which law-enforcement officials claim took place last year. The latter figure was publicly challenged last February by Prosecutor-General Aghvan Hovsepian who suggested that his subordinates and police divisions may be underreporting crimes to please their bosses.
The extraordinary remarks were part of a blistering attack launched by Hovsepian against the law-enforcement agencies and the Armenian Police Service in particular. Addressing fellow prosecutors at the time, he complained that many officers lack the professionalism, education and experience to solve crimes.
Hovsepian on Friday did not question the credibility of the latest, more dramatic crime figures though. A statement issued by his office attributed the reported drop in crime to a strengthening of the prosecutors’ oversight of police investigators. The prosecutors has focused on “ensuring respect of the due process during pre-trial investigations” and “enforcing the principle of inevitability of punishment,” the statement said.
Speaking to reporters, Hovsepian ducked questions about his February threat to sack prosecutors engaging in business, a practice which is believed to be widespread. It is therefore not clear if any of them have lost their jobs this year.
Hovsepian, who himself if thought to have extensive business interests, complained instead about the Armenian parliament’s recent refusal to approve lengthier prison sentences for businesspeople convicted of tax fraud. He also called for “radical changes in the law-enforcement system and urged subordinates to come up with relevant proposals.