The issue of higher crime rates has ignited controversy over amnesty practices
The number of crimes in 2018 was 54% higher than in 2017 with a total of 58,412 recorded offences, the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Georgia reports.
This number is unprecedented, surpassing the previous record of 43,028 crimes in 2013.
Just how disconcerting is this staggering increase in crime? Do the latest statistics give reason to believe that the criminal situation in Georgia is worsening? What do the ruling party and the opposition have to say on the matter?
Can the statistics of previous years be trusted?
After Georgian Dream came to power in 2012, the processing of statistical data and their publication became problematic. In 2016, the publication of crime statistics came to a halt under the leadership of Minister of Internal Affairs Giorgi Mgebrishvili. The practice was then reimplemented two years later by the new minister, Giorgi Gakharia.
However, crime statistics in Georgia may not provide an accurate image of the country’s criminal history. Since the statistics only account for recorded offences, they do not include unreported crimes. This is significant in Georgia, where there is a history of distrust of the government and law enforcement.
Interior Minister Giorgi Gakharia explains the surge in recorded crimes is owing to increased government transparency.
In 2018 the ministry abandoned the practice of “refining” statistics as part of the government’s commitment to promoting public confidence in law enforcement. He claims the combination of government transparency and increased trust in the authorities has led to a sharp increase in the number of registered offences.
The united opposition also published data on the criminal situation in Georgia. Their data shows that in 2019, the crime rate has increased by 60% from 2017.
The opposition argues there is actually decreased crime detection in Georgia. They lay the responsibility for this on the Minister of Internal Affairs Giorgi Gakharia.
“The number of crimes increased by 60 per cent compared to 2017, and the detection rate decreased by 18 per cent. The number of cases of suicide increased by 170 per cent, attempted suicide by 34 per cent, thefts by 89 per cent, robberies by 30 per cent,” said Paata Davitaia, one of the leaders of the opposition alliance, Strength in Unity.
United National Movement member Salome Samadashvili compared the ruling Georgian Dream party to a criminal cartel:
“You say that the increase in the number of crimes is connected to a criminal mentality [in the country], and who created this very mentality? Not your informal government, not Bidzina Ivanishvili, who, as in the tradition of thieves, calls businessmen for a showdown?”
Georgian Dream responds
Prime Minister Mamuka Bakhtadze rejected Roman Gotsiridze’s claim that the increase in crime was due to amnesty measures.
Bakhtadze stated on 22 March that the previous government’s “zero tolerance” policy with regard to the criminal underworld was unacceptable, and that the priority of Georgian Dream is respect for human rights.
Interior Minister Giorgi Gakharia says the opposition’s statements are purely political and divorced from reality. His deputy, Natia Mezvrishvili, claims that the detection rate has not decreased.
The chairman of the Georgian Dream parliamentary faction Mamuka Mdinaradze says the number of serious crimes has decreased. He agreed that the number of crimes related to domestic violence has increased.
The authorities also drew attention to the fact that in previous years the statistics did not include offences related to property damage and other lesser crimes. These were only included in the statistics of this year, which also affected the increase in the number of recorded offences.