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Public Discussion: Dynamics of Conventional Crime in Bulgaria 2000-2010
On 26 July 2011 at Iztok Hall of the National Assembly, the Center for the Study of Democracy (CSD), and other member institutions of the National Crime Prevention Commission (NCPC), in cooperation with the National Assembly’s Internal Security and Public Order Committee, held a public discussion entitled Dynamics of Crime in Bulgaria 2000-2010.

The discussion was opened by the Chairman of the National Crime Prevention Commission Mr. Tsvetan Tsvetanov, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of the Interior. In his opening remarks Mr. Tsvetanov underlined the significance of the National Crime Surveys (NCS) carried out by the Center for the Study of Democracy (CSD). He stated that the NCS provides a better picture of the state and trends of crime in the country. With regard to the Ministry of Interior’s work, the Minister pointed out that over the past two years there has been a decline in the level of serious and organised crime, crimes against the person and car thefts. Street crime, which is a social problem reflecting the current state of society, should not be viewed as the sole responsibility of the Ministry of Interior. The fight against crime should involve a number of agencies as well as the non-governmental sector. For this purpose it is crucial to apply an integrated approach part of which will be the development of a national crime prevention strategy. The Ministry of Interior will continue working on the improvement of the crime registration process as well as increasing trust of the public. As far as the better interaction among the investigation office, the courts and the prosecutor’s office is concerned, the introduction of a Uniform Crime Information System would make the fight against crime more efficient. This will give better opportunities for operational analysis of the dynamics of crime and facilitate adequate and prompt decisions providing legal instruments in countering crime.

Dr. Ognian Shentov, Chairman of the Center for the Study of Democracy, underlined that the National Crime Survey (NCS) employs an internationally recognised methodology, and its findings have been presented annually at the meetings of the National Crime Prevention Commission (NCPC) over the past five years. Mr. Shentov noted that it is time to consider a new format and provoke a more active participation of the institutions involved in the NCPC: the Ministry of Education and Science, the Ministry of Labor and Public Works, and the Ministry of Physical Education and Sport. The NCS findings could also be used in the development of specific measures and provision of differentiated financing of police departments by region. The report of the Center for the Study of Democracy analyzes for the first time crime specifics by region.

Mr. Krasimir Tsipov, Deputy Chairman of the Internal Security and Public Order Committee, underlined the importance of adequate actions in countering organised and street crime. This is most applicable to the latter since in a time of crisis the normal outcome is an increased level of crime. On the other hand, it is necessary to introduce some changes with regard to police statistics. The application of a proactive approach through the creation of an integrated information system will enormously increase the effectiveness of the fight against crime.

Mr. Tihomir Bezlov, Senior Analyst at the Center for the Study of Democracy, presented the main findings of the Dynamics of Crime in Bulgaria 2000-2010 report. The analysis compares the criminal situation in EU Member States as well as the attitudes towards and expectations of Bulgarian citizens of the police as well as social and economic mechanisms which impact crime trends in the country. In his presentation Mr. Bezlov presented the dynamics of the different categories of crime over a ten-year period. He concluded that the long trend of falling crime rates was disrupted due to the economic crisis. Therefore, over the past two years there was an increase in the level of some types of crime, especially property crimes. Mr. Bezlov also elaborated on the impact of factors such as unemployment, criminal justice policies and demography over crime rates in the country. He also presented the first ever regional NCS data, which allows for the development of regional policies with regards to countering unreported crime. In his presentation, Mr. Bezlov drew the attention of the audience to the discrepancies between registered crime and the NCS data, which is an indicator of the falling trust of the public in the police. Regarding future trends, Mr. Bezlov’s forecast was that in the event of a further improvement of the economic situation crime rates will go back to their pervious lower levels.

Commissioner General Angel Antonov, Director, Criminal Police General Directorate, pointed out that crime reflects the development stage of society at a concrete point of time and it is a consequence of a number of economic, social, demographic, cultural and other factors. Usually police statistics is used as a basis for surveying the level of crime, while the combination of factors which cause crime rates to change are not considered and often disregarded. In his presentation Commissioner General Antonov elaborated on the measures adopted to improve police statistics, such as the statistical monitoring of processing of reported crimes. He underscored the importance of police officer training with regard to the application of the new operating procedures for crime registration. Commissioner General Antonov also presented the audience with information related to the dynamics of crime trends from police point of view and also named some existing problems in this area. He concluded that in its wok the police try to consider all factors which impact the dynamics of all types of crime with regard to improving its efficiency.

Mr. Rumen Georgiev from the Lawyer’s Union underlined that the Uniform Crime Information System is long overdue, and it will solve the problem of lacking coordination among the police, prosecutor’s office and the court.

Mr. Konstantin Penchev, Ombudsman of the Republic of Bulgaria, pointed out that countering crime requires not only the will to fight crime but also a change in the public’s attitudes towards crime. A good example is the victims of telephone fraud. As long as such attitude exists it is impossible to expect an eradication of this type of crime. As far as the judiciary is concerned, Mr. Penchev underscored that the type and duration of punishments play a significant part in crime prevention. In cases of repeat offenders judges could rule out convictions of longer duration. A very important factor, according to Mr. Penchev, is the observance of reasonable deadlines in the criminal justice process.

Ms. Ivanka Ivanova, Director, Law Program, Open Society Institute, raised the question about making the annual reports of the general directorates and regional police directorates as well as police statistics available on the website of the Ministry of Interior

Mr. Bozhidar Danev, Chairman of the Bulgarian Industrial Association, paid attention to the fact that the types of crimes studied should be expanded. According to the Bulgarian Penal Code there are many other offences such as tax fraud, fictitious import and fraudulent reimbursement of excise tax and others. The nature of crime changes and factors such as unemployment and cutting down of positions in some sectors indicate and give clues of possible areas of interest for the crime world. Mr. Danev gave as an example the recently adopted law concerning the disposition of scrap metals, and underscored that the cutting down of jobs [by the closure of hundreds of scrap collection sites] is not a good decision of the problem with illegal trade in scrap metals. It would be more beneficial to find instruments that would punish only the illegal trade.

Mr. Vassil Todorov, representative of the Bulgarian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, pointed out that a public access to an information platform with regard to public procurement would increase the transparency in this area. It would be really useful to have a current legislation data base developed for the use of the public.

In his closing remarks Minister Tsvetanov thanked the participants in the public discussion and underlined the existing good partnership with the non-governmental sector. The Ministry of Interior starts the development of a crime prevention concept and strategy and will rely on the collaboration and help of all its partners.

Agenda (Adobe PDF, 19,7 KB)
Press Release (Adobe PDF, 332 KB)(only in Bulgarian)
Presentation by Mr. Tihomir Bezlov, Senior Analyst, Center for the Study of Democracy: Dynamics of Conventional Crime in Bulgaria 2000 – 2010. Trends and Typology (Adobe PDF, 838 KB)(only in Bulgarian)
Presentation by Commissioner General Angel Antonov, Director, Criminal Police General Directorate: Policies and Measures to Counteract Conventional Crime (Adobe PDF, 510 KB) (only in Bulgarian)
Report: Crime Trends in Bulgaria 2000-2010
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