Tuesday, May 15, 2018

The Changing Face of Crime in Russia: Less Violence but More Extremism

Paul Goble

            Staunton, May 15 – Officials statistics published by the Russian Procuracy General show that over the last eight years, the number of crimes in Russia have fallen by almost 22 percent, with serious crimes becoming much less while convictions for extremism and terrorism have grown.

            Over the same period, Nikolay Yaroshenko of MBK media says, criminals have become “older and more educated,” with those over 50 significantly increasing in number even as those under 30 have declined. But there has been little change in the share of non-citizens among those convicted of crimes (mbk.media/suzhet/kak-izmenilas-prestupnost-v/).

                Eight years ago as now, “the overwhelming number of those sentenced for crimes are men and women aged 30 to 49,” with men committing crimes at a rate five times greater than women, Yaroshenko continues.   At the same time, younger people, aged 14 to 29, are committing relatively fewer crimes than their elders and especially those over 50.

            Ever more people who commit crimes have higher educations, with one in five male and one in four female criminals having a degree. Violent crimes have fallen but the number of sentences involving charges of terrorism and extremism have doubled. Drug and weapon-related crimes have stayed about the same, he says.

            Yakov Gilinsky, a criminologist at the Herzen Russian State Pedagogical University, says that many young people are turning to the Internet rather than turning to street crime and that older people are more likely to be involved in so-called “white collar” crimes like fraud than in those like theft or murder. That also explains why Russian criminals now are more educated.

            According to Gilinsky, the growth in the number of sentences involving terrorism reflects its growth in society and also the desire of Russian law enforcement agencies to struggle “or to give the appearance that they are” against this high-profile type of crime.

            The situation with regard to extremism is more complicated, given that “extremism is an invented crime.” No other country has such “a crime.”  And because of the way the laws are written, the criminologist says, the police can in fact charge anyone they want – and thus boost their numbers and look good in the eyes of their bosses. 

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