A recent editorial from Vedemosti reprinted in the Moscow Times, discussing violent crime and murder in Russia, lays much of the blame at the feet of incompetent or corrupt police:
Dmitry Fotyanov, a candidate for mayor in the Far East city of Dalnegorsk, was murdered Thursday. The chain of high-profile killings continues. The murder of Central Bank First Deputy Chairman Andrei Kozlov was followed by more in the banking sector and one in the political sphere -- the journalist Anna Politkovskaya.Of course, the police don't invent the crime to begin with; however, the number of murders and violent crimes that remain unsolved and untouched speaks to a system that encourages such violence.
Have we returned to the criminal levels of the 1990s?
The answer is no -- it's even worse. High-profile murders are only drawing more attention to the problem. According to the State Statistics Service and the Interior Ministry, the number of murders registered annually in the country from 2000 to 2005 was, on average, 10.6 percent higher than for the period from 1992 to 1999. The killers haven't gone away. Under former President Boris Yeltsin, there were 19 cases of violent death per 100,000 people, while under President Vladimir Putin the figure has been about 22. By comparison, during the 1980s, when crime levels peaked in the United States, the number of violent deaths per 100,000 people was 10.2. That number fell to five in 2000.
According to Supreme Court statistics, 1.2 million criminal cases were heard by Russian courts in 2005 (9.8 percent more than in 2004), of which about 27,000 were for premeditated murder (against 26,500 in 2004). The overall number of registered crimes rose from 2.7 million in 1995 to 3.5 million in 2005. And according to the State Statistics Service, the number of suspects apprehended for crimes fell -- from 1.59 million in 1995 to 1.29 million in 2005.
The country has grown richer, but this hasn't meant greater peace and order. The problem would appear to be in law enforcement. According to a number of different studies, the end of the 1990s saw a shift in the 'protection' business, with payments to the police and state security agent becoming more popular with businesses.
Even if you dismiss these studies as mere slander against the police, it's hard to ignore law enforcement's complete ineffectiveness. There are about 800,000 police officers in Russia, or more than 550 per 100,000 people. The figures for Europe per 100,000 people are less than two murders and slightly more than 300 police (according to statistics for 2000). That crime fighters here are either not fighting crime or not doing anything at all is supported by public opinion: According to polls by the Levada Center, the public confidence indicator for the police was minus 24 in September, minus 31 in March and minus 28 in September 2005 (calculated by subtracting the percentage of respondents who said they had no confidence from those who said they had full confidence).
Sean's Russki Blog also tackles this topic and its possible implications to the Russian Federation in depth.