PM Irakli Garibashvili has dismissed allegations of deteriorating crime situation as “feeble attempts by opponents” to portray the government incapable of fighting the crime, but speaking at a government session on Friday morning he also called for tightening laws on carrying arms.
Crime situation has long been one of the issues over which the opposition is frequently attacking the government. But citing interior ministry’s official statistics, which the opponents slam as not credible, the authorities argue that despite of large-scale amnesty in early 2013, crime rate has not been deteriorated. During debates on this issue, government and GD ruling coalition representative have been often claiming that under the previous government, when the major television channels were under the authorities “control”, grave crime incidents were underreported and now that television channels often report about crime cases it creates “perception” as if the crime rate has increased.
Triple murder in Adigeni of three young men and shooting down of a young man in Tbilisi center over the past week has further fueled debates over the crime situation.
Deputy PM and minister of energy, Kakha Kaladze, said on September 3 that law enforcement agencies “should do even more in fight against crime.” A lawmaker from GD ruling coalition Tina Khidasheli of the Republic Party wrote on her Facebook page on September 4, that even if the official statistics are correct it does not change much and is not an appropriate answer to the concerns existing in the society, which expects from the government a concrete plan and “vision” how it is going to tackle the problem.
According to NDI-commissioned public opinion survey, fielded in late July and early August, 29% of respondents think that crime level has increased in Georgia since the parliamentary elections in October, 2012 when the GD came into power; the figure is a six percentage point decline since the similar survey in April. In the recent survey 51% of respondents, up from 46% in April, think that crime level has stayed the same since October, 2012 and 10% said the crime rate declined.
“Over the past two-three days I’ve been seeing hysteria, which has been ongoing in television stations over crime situation, which is artificially stirred,” PM Garibashvili said at the government session on September 5.
“I want to state with full responsibility that crime situation is absolutely stable and the state is doing everything in order to keep it under control. The Interior Minister and the ministry in overall are fully motivated and are working round-the-clock – the work of policemen is invaluable,” he said, adding that those several cases of murder in recent days are “very grave… but crime happens in every country.”
“I do not want to sound like we are explaining ourselves or we are on defensive – especially in the face of feeble attempts by our opponents to portray a picture as if the state is not capable of fighting or is not fighting the crime efficiently,” Garibashvili said.
He said that about 17,000 inmates were released from jail as a result of amnesty in early 2013. The PM said that many of those who were released as the amnesty “appreciated it,” but “many others did not and are now back” in penitentiary.
“I want to instruct the Interior Minister and the Justice Minister to promptly draft a bill and to make maximally strict clauses related to carrying of arms,” Garibashvili said without elaborating details of possible changes in the law.
He also praised Interior Minister, Alexandre Tchikaidze, and said that his “work should be valued.”
“We have approaches that are in any civilized European country – on the one hand we try maximally not to violate human rights and on the other hand we are carrying out uncompromising struggle against crime. Keeping balance is our main goal and we have achieved it,” PM Garibashvili said. “Mr. Tchikaidze’s work should be valued – they [police] try to fight crime and at the same time not to violate human rights and it should be appreciated.”