Crime rates in 2014 decreased compared to the record high levels of 2012. Nevertheless, the conventional crime rate remained one of the highest since 2004. Over the past year, more victims reported crimes - a sign of relative increase of confidence in the police. At the same time, there is a continuing discrepancy between data of the victimisation surveys and official police statistics.
The Dynamics of Conventional Crime, a sensitive issue in Bulgaria, was the topic of a discussion organized by the Center for Study of Democracy on 30 July 2015. Results of the 2015 National Crime Survey (NCS) were presented to Ms. Rumiana Bachvarova, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Interior, as well as with senior representatives from the national police.
The discussion was opened by Dr. Ognian Shentov, Chairman of CSD, who emphasized that the NCS is one of the most accurate tools for measuring the rate of crime in the country. The analysis of NCS results and their comparison with the official police statistics can help the authorities devise and implement efficient measures and policies.
Mr. Tihomir Bezlov, Senior Expert at CSD, presented the results of the NCS. The timing of the 2015 NCS coincided a period of turmoil and changes in the Ministry of Interior. Mr. Bezlov made a comparison of the trends indicated by official police statistics and the victimisation surveys over the years. He pointed out to a significant discrepancy in 2012, when police statistics indicated a continued downward trend, while NCS revealed a sharp increase in crime rates. The official statistics obviously recorded a smaller number of crimes than actually committed. This can be due to several factors: for instance, the so called “latency” – victims of crimes choose, for various reasons, not to report a crime to the police; another factor is the existence of “police filters” – crimes get reported, but are not registered by the police. According to the survey results, on average, only one out of three reported crimes gets registered. To deal with this problem, a variety of measures were proposed: performing regular regional comparisons to detect discrepancies between registered and committed crimes; comparing police statistics with 112 (emergency calls) statistics; deploying “mystery clients” in the regional police departments; and carrying out spot checks.
Chief Commissioner Georgi Kostov, Secretary General of the Ministry of Interior, presented the dynamics of crime in the country for the first half of 2015 by providing detailed statistics on the types of offences. The overall level of crime has declined by 8.4% compared to the same period last year. There is a significant decrease in the rate of certain crimes: crimes against property - 16%, robberies - 19.6%, theft - 17.7 %, etc. The rate of crime detection has increased by 6.3 points to 36.8%. However, a concern is the increase of intentional murders (incl. attempted murders) by 20% compared to the same period of 2014. As the main reasons for the decline in crime rates in 2015 Mr. Kostov outlined the reduced deployment of regular police forces at the borders, and the re-focusing of some criminals to trafficking of migrants. The falling crime rates have created favourable conditions for implementing of new measures to overcome certain weaknesses of the police. He suggested organizing and conducting awareness campaigns among citizens to promote citizens’ engagement, since without it there cannot be an effective penalty process and conviction. A new performance evaluation system is planned, introducing four criteria of effectiveness, based on the quality of investigation, search and seizure, prevention and public security. The aim is to avoid offences performed by police executives. Since the beginning of the year all documents on reported crimes are stored in a single electronic register. Additionally, interactive maps of crime are employed in order to improve the efficient use of police resources.
Chief Commissioner Hristo Terziyski, Director of the National Police, noted that one of the reasons for the discrepancies between police statistics and the survey results stems from non-compliance by victims with the proper registration process. The appointment of personnel in 12 regional directorates that speak Roma language will facilitate the process of reporting a crime by the representatives of this ethnic group. Chief Commissioner Terziyski reported an increase in the number of solved crimes, i.e. a crime where a verdict has been issued against the offenders.
In conclusion, Ms. Rumyana Bachvarova said that conventional crime is a social issue that must be solved with the efforts and close cooperation of all sectors committed to the fight against crime. For this reason, the National Council for Crime Prevention has been restored. She confirmed the importance of monitoring the regional statistics and providing an explanation for the respective trends. Ms. Bachvarova thanked the Center for the Study of Democracy for the good work and said that the NCS represents an alternative tool for crime measurement which can be used to assess police statistics. As the public perception of crime is influenced by subjective factors, such as the high sensitivity to this issue, the implementation of targeted and long-term efforts to boost confidence in the police institution and its employees is of utmost importance.
CSD Policy Brief No. 56: Динамика на конвенционалната престъпност 2014 - 2015 г. (in Bulgarian)
Media coverage (in Bulgarian)