By Constantinos Psillides
MURDERS, attempted murders, rapes, robberies, burglaries, thefts, bomb attacks and drug crimes fell in 2013 with only arson attacks showing a rise, according to the latest crime stats released yesterday by police.
Overall serious crime was at its lowest level in four years, Police Chief Michalis Papageorgiou said at a news conference to present the numbers, some of which went against popular perceptions such as ‘most crimes are committed by foreigners’. In fact, 53 per cent of serious crimes – not including drugs cases – are committed by Cypriots and 47 per cent by foreigners.
Papageorgiou said that in general “we have all become more irritable, more aggressive and more violent and we much more easily take the law into our own hands than in the past.” A case in point was the increase in arson attacks, he said, suggesting that an inherent inefficiency in the system when it came to settling debts had prompted more people to indulge their anger and frustration. This was being compounded by the financial crisis.
“I ask the public to immediately contact the authorities if they are harassed or threatened or if they feel that they have been deceived by someone, and not take matters into their own hands,” he said.
In addition to lower crime levels overall, in all areas other than arson, police solve rates have risen in most categories. The overall solve rate in 2013 was 57.8 per cent compared to 53.8 per cent in 2012.
Police are at their best in solving drugs cases with a 97 per cent solve rate in 2012 and a 96.6 per cent solve rate last year. A total of 435 drugs cases made it to court in 2012, in comparison with 516 in 2013.
The police force’s worst solve rates are for arson and bomb attacks, both hovering around the 10 per cent to 12 per cent mark. But, nearly 82 per cent of murders were solved last year compared to 63 per cent in 2012. And given the high number and nature of the crime, police managed to solve some 36 per cent of all burglaries last year.
In 2013 a total 7,098 serious crimes were reported – nearly 20 crimes every day – compared to 7,973 in 2012. The lowest was in 2009, with 7,094 cases. Last year there were 11 murders, eight attempted murders, 18 rapes, 234 arson attacks, 149 robberies, 1,001 drugs cases, 40 bomb attacks, 2,675 burglaries and 1,247 thefts.
According to Papageorgiou, 2011 was the worst year when it came to reported crime, with 8,426 cases reported. Authorities classify as ‘serious’ any crime that can’t be handled without court procedures, and any theft over €1,000.
Murders and attempted murders reports were the crimes with the biggest decline, with a 42.1 per cent and 33.3 per cent decrease respectively.
Most of the murders reported in 2013 were the result of heated argument and violent confrontation. Others included financial differences, family differences and underworld connections. When it comes to burglaries and thefts, police said 66.7 per cent of the time offenders targeted residences.
Most crimes are committed by those in the 19-24 age group although this was fewer than in 2012. Worryingly, crimes by those in the 14-18 age group rose from 117 in 2012 to 140 in 2013, as did crimes committed by 35-39 year olds, and those in the 40+ bracket, which rose to 110 and 124 respectively.
There was more good news on the traffic front. Road deaths were at their lowest point in 30 years with 44 deaths last year compared to 51 in 2012. The goal was to reduce deaths to 51 by last year. Road deaths peaked at 133 in 1994, declining steadily and peaking again in 2004 with 117. They have been on the decline since.
Papageorgiou attributed the decrease to police road safety campaigns and raising awareness. “When we can work together, hand in hand we can achieve a lot,” he said. “The statistics indicate that conscientious driving is now being cultivated”, he added.
One statistic was of concern however. From the 44 who died on the roads in 2013, some 45.5 per cent were under the age of 25. This was a significant increase on 2012 when 27.5 per cent of the 51 who died were under 25.
Also worrying was that one in 14 drivers were caught under the influence compared to one in 13 in 2012. Also the number of drivers caught without seatbelts or helmets, although down on the previous year, still stood at 58 per cent compared to 67 per cent in 2012.
Speeding was down 36.7 per cent with 73,451 cases reported in 2013 and 116,011 reported in 2012, while drink driving violations were down 18.8 per cent.