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Too many taking the law into their own hands, says police chief
MURDERS, arsons, robberies and blackmail all increased last year compared to 2011 with serious crime on an upward trajectory since 2009, the police chief said yesterday.
But there was a record low in road deaths, while break-ins and thefts were also down, the chief, Michalis Papageorgiou said during a media briefing of how the force did in 2012.
Last year, 18 people were murdered with the police solving 11 of those cases, a noticeable hike from 2011 when eight people were killed and only three of those cases were solved by the police.
The chief said that six murders in 2012 were the result of arguments, while he attributed five to differences among members of the underground.
The chief became animated when talking about the murders over arguments and family differences.
“Several Cypriots have become ill-tempered, they have become aggressive, arbitrary, they have become violent [people] who easily take the law into their own hands,” Papageorgiou said.
“Financial interests often become more important than life itself,” he added. “Why?”
Papageorgiou said that the debt crisis, which started being felt in 2009 coincided with a rise in serious crime as numbers began to climb in that year.
In 2009 there were 7,094 cases of serious crime known to the police, and 7,977 last year. The jobless rate has also been rising during the same period.
Robberies and blackmail climbed to 173 last year but only 70 have been solved, compared with 137 in 2011, out of which 58 were solved.
Arsons – which Papageorgiou said were crimes of intimidation driven by financial reasons –increased by almost 29 per cent in a year, from 163 in 2011, to 210 in 2012, but only 24 were solved last year versus 18 in 2011.
The chief blamed an inadequate system that makes it hard for people to get the money owed to them as the “operative factor” leading to an increase in robberies and blackmail.
But “despite what is publicly heard,” break-ins have been reduced by 12.6 per cent, going down from 3,379 in 2011 to 2,954 in 2012, though only about 32 per cent were solved in both years, the chief said. A number of police campaigns have been urging people to be careful to protect their homes, and install security measures.
Other thefts were down from 1,687 in 2011 to 1,548 with the police solving more cases last year when they crossed 532 thefts from their to-solve list.
A total of 53 per cent of perpetrators caught last year were non-Cypriots.
“Though we are not and cannot be against a multicultural society, we demand from Cypriots and others to respect their obligations by law,” Papageorgiou said.
There were more people and more cases involving drugs last year with an increase of 9.8 per cent in cases, which totalled 1,032. There was also an 18.3 per cent increase in the number of people becoming involved in drug crimes from 1,052 to 1,245.
A total of 275 cases involving drugs were solved by police departments apart from those solved by the drugs squad YKAN, a big jump from 2011 when other departments contributed to solving 91 drugs cases.
Young people aged between 19 and 24 continue being the biggest group involved in drugs – comprising 418 people last year, an increase of 46 from 2011. However teenagers aged between 14 and 18 (children aged 14 and over may be prosecuted) are becoming more involved in drugs related cases with 117 involved last year versus 83 in 2011.
A programme is in place to rehabilitate first-time offenders but only 25 per cent of those admitted – 75 people - finished it, which is nonetheless an improvement from 2011 when just 17 per cent completed the programme, the chief said.
The police have been modestly increasing its face-to-face meetings and its referrals of people to other cases, as part of their policy of prevention, Papageorgiou said. A total of 435 people were referred to other services and 482 people had face-to-face meetings with police officers.
Meanwhile, the number of people who died in road accidents fell to an all-time low of 51 last year compared to 71 in 2011, a reduction of 28.2 per cent, Papageorgiou said.
The average number of yearly deaths is 103, measured since the inception of the republic in 1960 – the breadth of the statistical data available to police.
The total number of road accidents has also been falling, from 1,624 (including victims) in 2011, to 1,426 (with victims) last year.
However, 26 people who died in a road accident were not wearing a seat belt or helmet.
And of the 51 who died, 14 were younger than 25 years of age, keeping the proportion of deaths in the under-25s stable at about 28 per cent of all road deaths in 2011 and 2012.
The police who have been conducting fewer alcohol checks, have nonetheless been filing more reports because “of targeted checks,” Papageorgiou said.
In 2012, a total of 11,261 drunk drivers were caught, an increase of almost 33 per cent since 2011 when 8,479 drunk drivers were caught.
The police have also been filing more speeding offences - 95,114 in 2011 and 116,011 in 2012, an increase of 22 per cent.
In total, more traffic offences were registered, bringing up the figure to 270,640 in 2012 compared with 246,085 in 2011.
Because of austerity measures, police had their budget reduced by €18 million and had 365 fewer members of staff but “nonetheless took up an increased work load with Cyprus’ presidency (of the EU council),” the chief said.
Papageorgiou hailed the force’s job, despite the austerity.