Crime rate drop may be misleading

STATISTICS from both the European Union and national law enforcement show that the crime rate in Slovakia has declined over the past several years.

STATISTICS from both the European Union and national law enforcement show that the crime rate in Slovakia has declined over the past several years.

Last year, Slovak Police recorded fewer crimes than in 2006 in all major categories, including economic, violent and property. It attributes this to prevention programmes that have targeted all sections of society.

But lawyers warns that latent crime - crimes that go unreported, or are reported but insufficiently investigated - remains a problem.

Recent Eurostat statistics reveal that 131,244 crimes were recorded in Slovakia in 2004, followed by further drops to 123,563 in 2005 and 115,152 in 2006.

The downward trend continued last year, in which the number of crimes decreased by 4 percent to 110,802, according to Slovak police. As many as 23 percent of those offences were committed in the Bratislava Region, the findings concluded.

Though both EU and Slovak authorities agree that crime is declining in Slovakia, some experts say the statistics present an incomplete picture.

Martin Korch, spokesman of the Slovak Police Headquarters, said that one flaw in the Eurostat statistics is that they don't define exactly what constitutes a crime, which differs according to country.

"What is illegal in one country might be acceptable elsewhere," he said.

Furthermore, Jozef Holcin from the Government Council for Crime Prevention, said that the statistics don't address latent crime, which is actually the most pressing issue facing the country.

"Even if the number of recorded crimes and results of investigation seem excellent at the first, the actual state of affairs can be completely the opposite," he observed. "Many offences go unreported, since awareness is still quite low."

Whether crimes are reported is closely connected with how much confidence the public has in its police force, Korch said, adding that he considers the situation in Slovakia to be relatively positive.

"According to our latest survey, more than 40 percent of people trust the police," he stated.

Korch also expressed his belief that along with thorough investigations, preventive measures must be taken to reduce crime.

"The police have been carrying out these measures very systematically, with respect to all age, social and ethnic groups," he told The Slovak Spectator. "I believe that the relatively favourable trend in our country is due to this as well."

Nevertheless, Juraj Kolesár, director of the Department of Criminal Law and Criminology at Comenius University in Bratislava, sees some shortcomings in the work of Slovak authorities.

"Failure to act quickly is among the most glaring weaknesses of the police and courts," he said. "However, crime in Slovakia is fortunately still at a tolerable level and does not surpass the European average. One hardly notices a difference between the railway station in Bratislava and those in Brussels or Copenhagen."

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