Emphasis on foreigners but statistics in short supply
Two recent government crime reports paint contradictory pictures of illegal activity in the Czech Republic, pointing to both the general difficulties of accurately gauging crime and differing concerns between prosecutors and police.
Some say the emphasis on crimes committed by foreigners in one of the reports plays into a growing sense of xenophobia in the country.
One report, by the Supreme State Attorney’s Office (NSZ), points to a general leveling-off in crime in recent years, but emphasizes a spike in criminal activity by foreigners and increasing cases of human trafficking and prostitution.
A second report, by the Justice Ministry’s Institute for Criminology and Social Prevention, emphasizes a greater need to combat organized crime and corruption among Czechs, even suggesting that the aforementioned NSZ needs to reform itself with special organized crime departments to deal with the growing threat.
The annual NSZ report is a compilation of statistics from various regional prosecutor offices, and is a measure of what types of crime found their way into the court system in 2008. Prime Minister Jan Fischer’s cabinet reviewed the report July 27.
The NSZ says 110,411 people were prosecuted for crimes last year, about a 3 percent decline from 2007, and points to this as a sign that overall crime levels have remained relatively flat. It says that financial crime and police corruption have declined, while crimes related to drugs, prostitution and human trafficking are on the rise.
Notably lacking are sub-sections on inter-ethnic and cyber crime.
“The report can’t cover all kinds of crime,” said NSZ spokeswoman Renata Malinová. “Internet crime is kind of hard to follow, as it represents a relatively new form of crime.”
Foreigners are explicitly mentioned as an increased source of crime in the report. One section of the report breaks down prosecutions by nationality. In a section discussing drug crime, the report notes, “The number of grow houses and labs is on the rise. It is interesting to observe that this crime is often committed by Vietnamese citizens.”
The statement comes despite the report’s failure to cross-reference crimes by foreigners with the different crime genres. When this question was posed to the NSZ, Malinová said the prosecutor’s office had no such statistics and directed The Post to other government agencies.
Eva Škrdlantová with the National Monitoring Center for Drugs and Addiction, citing the police, says that 79 grow house were raided last year, adding, “Vietnamese persons are probably responsible for parts of the large-scale production of indoor marijuana in the Czech Republic, but it can’t be said that only the Vietnamese community is responsible for it.”
Some in civil society are also questioning the NSZ conclusion, which is emblematic of several such sweeping statements in the report that lack statistical backing.
“I admit [the information about the Vietnamese] may be biased,” said Katarína Oboňová with Transparency International.
Gwendolyn Albert, co-author of a forthcoming report on the Czech Republic by the Brussels-based European Network Against Racism, goes further.
“No statistical evidence speaks for itself,” she said. “It’s possible the Vietnamese are involved, but it is hard to believe they don’t have Czech business partners.”
The questions about the NSZ report grow when compared to a Justice Ministry report released in July based on surveys of police detectives. This report emphasizes that, by concentrating on crime committed by foreigners, officials have allowed corruption and domestic organized crime to flourish.
“In the past, the danger of the emergence of domestic organized crime was underestimated and paid insufficient attention,” the report says.
The report recommends that prosecutors reform their offices to include special departments to tackle domestic organized crime, and warns against potential efforts of organized crime groups to now covertly move profits into the legitimate economy – warning against fraud and the same such financial crime the NSZ says is in decline.
On another point, the Justice Ministry report recommends, “Further legislative treatment of corruption, a tougher legislation addressing the conflict of interest [and] stricter punishments for organized extortions and murders.”
A recent public opinion poll suggests that concerns among the Czech populace are more in line with those of the police, perceiving corruption and white-collar crime as major problems.
The Public Opinion Research Center recently released a poll where 80 percent of Czechs noted corruption as a major concern, and nearly 75 percent pointed to financial crime as a major problem.
– Sarah Borufka and Radka Zítková contributed to this report.
Foreigners accounted for 3 percent of total prosecutions in 2008. A new report touts a spike in crimes by foreigners but fails to detail past years.
No statistics for past years
Source: The Supreme State Attorney’s Office (NSZ)