Latvia 'Europe's crime capital'

  • 2008-07-23
  • By Talis Saule Archdeacon

CRIME FIGHTERS: Despite police efforts, analysts say Latvia is the most lawless country in the EU.

RIGA - Latvia has the highest crime rate in the EU and the second highest in Europe, according to a recent report.

In a report titled "Europe's Crime Capitals," Forbes business magazine claimed that only Turkey has a higher crime rate than the Baltic state.

"The most popular activities for organized crime groups were illegal drug trafficking, criminal vehicle business and economic crimes. With its high rate of alcoholism, Latvia is also the second most dangerous place in Europe to drive a car," the report said.

The Latvian State Police slammed the report with representatives claiming they had "no idea" why Forbes would give the country such a high ranking.

"It is not true. We are absolutely sure that Latvia is not a criminal country," state police representative Ieva Zvidre said.

"I don't know why Forbes has this idea. I think they are looking only at some official numbers, but every country has different laws and different systems to check these things," she said.

Zvidre defended the country's police work, saying that the numbers seemed inflated because the police register minor crimes, such as pickpocketing and lost mobile phones.

"From the beginning of the '90s, [the crime rate] goes lower and lower. I think that if you saw the results of our work 's as there has been great work against drugs recently 's you would see we are working better," the police spokeswoman said.

Forbes said that it determined the ranking based on information from Eurostat, the EU's leading statistics office. The magazine used measurements of "total crime," which includes all offenses against the penal (or criminal) code. The report covered both EU member states and candidate countries such as Turkey and Croatia.

The statistics revealed that crime in Latvia increased by 4.8 percent between 2003 and 2006. It also pointed to the 207 road fatalities reported in 2007.

Turkey, by contrast, saw an increase of 18.6 percent over the same time period. The report noted that most of the crime in Turkey is attributable to organized-crime groups currently active in casinos, nightclubs and prostitution.

Slovenia was ranked third with a 4.2 percent increase in crime over the surveyed period.

Italy took fourth place in the report, which noted that the Mafia is believed to have "extended its tentacles into the government, judiciary and businesses for more than a century." The report highlighted problems with protection rackets and extortion.

Cyprus ranked fifth, followed by Spain, Greece, Liechtenstein, Hungary and Scotland.