Will a vice squad make Latvia more moral?

  • 2000-04-13
  • By Anna Pridanova
RIGA - The Ministry of Internal Affairs has finally found part of the necessary funds to expand and build up the vice squad. Minister Mareks Seglins announced this decision after meeting with the parliamentary investigative commission into the pedophilia scandal.

Officials claim this unit was already there, though subordinated to the Drug Abatement Bureau and comprising only five persons. The newly created vice squad is not yet an independent unit. Subordination remains the same, though it is set to be out from under DAB jurisdiction and become independent when it grows to 44 persons, Krists Leiskalns, spokesman for the state police said. But the future of the independent unit is still very unclear, since the Ministry of Interior Affairs has promised only a third of the funds requested.

According to Ministry spokesman Normund Belskis, the decision on the transfer of this money will be made by the Cabinet of Ministers within a couple of weeks.

The reallocation of 75,000 lats ($127,119) from the other ministry's activities allows an increase of up to 21 employees and equipment purchases. As Belskis reports, the funds were raised due to elimination of one nursery school and one department at the ministry, as well as savings on currency exchange rate fluctuations and partly from the ministry's apartments repair funds.

The vice squad was first created in the beginning of the 90's and was financially supported by the Riga Council. In 1997 the funds were cut, leading to incorporation of the unit into the Drugs Abatement Bureau.

As Leiskalns reports, when the need for a vice squad was realized by state police authorities, the project budget calculated at 225,000 lats was handed to the Interior Affairs Ministry. He also admits public resonance with the pedophilia problem drew special attention to the need for a vice squad.

Aida Predele, member of the Investigative Parliamentary Commission on the pedophilia scandal, also agrees that the problem was highlighted by the investigation. She claims that at the moment, Latvia needs both a law on prostitution and a surveillance body. She is also worried about the competence of people supposed to work in the department. They need to be specially trained to work with possible victims of pedophilia.

Leiskalns in turn said the vice squad will work not only with abused children, but primarily with prostitutes and pimps. This means that, "they have to be first professional policemen, however, they certainly will be specially trained," he said.

The ministry's press department also said that Seglins has signed and forwarded to the Ministry of Finance a request to amend the second half of the budget and to assign 100,000 lats for the vice squad, which ministry officials say is neccessary for efficient work.

Worth mentioning is the speed of the ministry's actions. In March it was reported that only 20,000 lats are found to expand this unit. A week later, the ministry's resources allowed the amount to increase by four times.

Helena Soldatjonoka, a member of the parliamentary investigative commission in the pedophilia scandal, explained that the needed sum was already in the budget draft last year. When it was canceled later, Seglins promised to find funds in the ministry's budget, she said. Now he has found them. But as Janis Gulbis, the director of the Riga Center for Protection of Children's Rights claims, "It is apparent that 75,000 lats is not enough to provide efficient work. To deal with this problem every Riga district should have a vice squad unit."