By Astghik Bedevian
State prosecutors reported on Friday an almost 10 percent increase in the number of various crimes committed crime in Armenia last year.
Figures released by the Office of the Prosecutor-General show that the rise in murders, thefts and drug-related crimes was particularly rapid. According to them, 75 people were murdered last year, sharply up from 55 such cases officially registered in 2005. Law-enforcement authorities also registered a more than 30 percent surge in instances of drug abuse and trafficking that totaled 1,510, or nearly 16 percent of the overall crime statistics.
Although the official figures say 84 percent of the 2006 crimes were solved by the police and other law-enforcement bodies, Prosecutor-General Aghvan Hovsepian described them as a cause for serious concern. Speaking at an annual meeting of Armenian prosecutors, he at the same said that the increased crime rate partly resulted from a new computerized crime registry introduced in Yerevan’s police department last year.
“The underreporting [by the police] of crimes committed in Yerevan has been minimized as a result,” said Hovsepian. “That is also a reason why their overall number rose.”
The chief prosecutor also stressed the need to solve a series of high-profile killings reported last year. Their most famous victim, senior tax official Shahen Hovasapian, was blown up in a car outside his home in central Yerevan on September 6. Other victims included a businessman, a reputed crime figure and a senior member of the influential Yerkrapah Union of Karabakh war veterans.
The killings raised public concerns about the situation with crime and rule of law in Armenia. However, the deputy chief of the national police, Ararat Mahtesian, dismissed them last November, insisting that Armenia remains one of the safest countries in Europe and the former Soviet Union. He argued that 2005 saw one of the lowest crime rates in the country’s history.
(Photolur photo: Aghvan Hovsepian.)