The Armenian police reported on Wednesday an 11 percent increase in the number of various crimes registered in the country last year.
The chief of the police staff, Colonel Armen Ghukasian, said thefts, burglaries and instances of corruption detected by law-enforcement authorities accounted for most of that increase.
The national police chief, Valeri Osipian, acknowledged the higher crime rate in November. But Osipian downplayed it, saying that many crimes were underreported under his predecessors. Besides, he said, victims of petty crimes are now less reluctant to report them because of greater public trust in the police.
Ghukasian likewise insisted that law-enforcement bodies have been more trusted by Armenians since last spring’s “spring revolution.” He argued that the number of crime reports and complaints received by the police from citizens jumped by 28 percent in 2018.
“And the police have changed their attitudes towards citizens,” Ghukasian told a news conference. “You have probably seen that in your day-to-day life.”
“Of course we still have many problems in that regard and the most difficult thing is … the psychological change which we will also achieve. That just takes time,” he said.
Police officials say that a general amnesty declared by the Armenian authorities in October is another factor behind the increased number of crimes. The amnesty led to the early release from prison of 581 convicts. In Ghukasian’s words, 30 of them have been arrested again for committing more crimes.
Critics of the current government say that police have been weaker on crime and especially traffic violations since the revolution. They point out, in particular, that Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian ordered a less strict enforcement of traffic rules shortly after coming to power in May 2018.
Ghukasian confirmed that the number of car accidents and resulting fatalities in Armenia also rose last year. But he blamed that first and foremost on a nearly twofold rise in car imports to the country in 2018.
Osipian dismissed the criticism of the new police leadership when he spoke to reporters in late December. He also claimed to have eliminated corruption in the police ranks since taking office in May.