Publication: Monitor Volume: 6 Issue: 188

Moscow’s crime rate, according to statistics published this week, has skyrocketed in 2000. The total number of crimes registered in the first eight months of this year was 43.4 percent higher than the number committed during the same period in 1999. Likewise, the number of so-called “serious crimes” registered grew by 55.8 percent. These “serious crimes” included attacks leading to death (in other words, manslaughter, as opposed to premeditated murder), which increased by 37.4 percent, assaults (up by 13.4 percent) and robbery (up by 52.9 percent). Some 25,000 crimes were committed in public places in Moscow–up 43.4 percent. At the same time, the number of crimes solved dropped by 15 percent–from 86.1 percent last year to 71.4 percent this year. The number of serious solved crimes dropped by 20.5 percent. Included among the unsolved case were some 2,500 involving narcotics sales (Novaya gazeta, October 9).

The statistics raise obvious questions about the crime-fighting methods of the Moscow police in particular and the Interior Ministry more generally. Earlier this year, a newspaper obtained an internal Moscow police department document which documented a police major giving his officers quotas for the number of people to be arrested and/or fined, particularly for public drunkenness. The paper speculated that easy targets, such as the homeless, were being repeatedly detained and written up in order to meet such quotas. It also quoted the head of a union representing 3,000 of the capital’s policemen as saying that his union had filed a complaint with Prosecutor General’s Office in 1998 over the practice of arrest quotas. The Moscow police have repeatedly denied that such a quota system exists (Moscow Times, March 30). Other aspects of the Moscow urban landscape also raise questions about the commitment of the local police to fight crime. The prostitution business, for example, operates openly in the streets of central Moscow (and, increasingly, in regions outside the city center) without the interference by the law enforcement authorities. In fact, one frequently sees scenes in Moscow suggesting that many local policemen are either complicit in the business or paid to look the other way.