24 February 2018
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Not professional journalism

 I was severely shocked by the latest edition. That is not professional journalism. No effort was made for the police commissariat to rebut or clarify your statement. Yet you use their emblem at the top of the page. You avoid libel by putting the attack on the police in her words, that ‘many of them probably get a share of the cake from many theft and assaults…’ instead of yours.

Think about it. Rural tourism is big business in Lithuania but after reading your piece, I would immediately cancel any plans to visit a village. In actuality, it may even be safer, since back in 1995, they were torturing pensioners to death so that they would disclose where they had hidden a couple hundred litas. I have not heard of that going on recently.

But you do not have to go to the village to have this problem. The criminals come into Vilnius on the train, carry out nasty crimes in the vicinity of train station, and then leave before the police can catch them.

You talk about the president addressing the problem. She is more concerned with foreign policy than domestic. Aside from signing laws and appointing the head of the various government organisations, like the police commissariat, she really has little domestic power. She does not have the right to introduce legislation or work it through the Seimas. So what are you expecting her to do? Why are you unnecessarily raising dissatisfaction with our government? People have enough trouble trusting it and the various officials without fruitless attacks.

And what is at the core of this problem? It is that we have lots of people without work or hope of work. These are the people turning to crime. But the state does not have money to increase unemployment benefits. It does not have money for retraining workers. And the thieves do not really care whether the state feeds them or crime does. Furthermore, the current drive in EU policy, which strongly influences our laws, is to reduce penalties for theft and assault and to increase prevention, including using home arrest instead of jail time.

That some police officers are turning a blind eye for a piece of the pie is almost sure to be true. But to give that as the reason for state-wide ‘incompetence’ is absurd. This was a wonderful, lost opportunity to show that you get what you pay for. The police are woefully underpaid and under-financed. A comparison of Lithuanian financing with that of neighbouring countries and the EU, adjusted for cost of living, would have been fantastic. Furthermore I think the police took a cut in pay when the crisis hit. I remember the medical and fire fighting staffs protesting. You also did not show how many officers have lost their lives in the line of duty.

As to your statistic that around half the cases are not investigated, it is taken out of context. Some anecdotal evidence might clarify the point. My friend has been robbed three times. One time his telephone was taken out of his backpack on a crowded bus. He didn’t see it happen and so he can’t identify the culprit. Fabric does not retain fingerprints. Without evidence, the police have no right to search someone, as if they could find a random passenger from the no. 5 trolley two hours after he got off. The second time, a little old lady picked his pocket at the cash register in a provision shop. Since she did not rob the shop, they were not interested in co-operating. Since it was a little old lady who could not really be sent to jail or ordered to pay a fine (She’s stealing because she can’t pay her bills now.) and because the judge would find the victim guilty of negligence, there was no need to investigate as it would have been a fruitless waste of taxpayers’ money. The third time his basement was robbed. His son had let his friends know he kept a nice bike down there and one of them helped himself to it. Fingerprints do not last for more than 24 hours in most cases and basement surfaces are rough, making fingerprints hard to acquire even if reported immediately. So how were the police supposed to investigate these crimes? And why should they?

When Simone wandered off in Trakai, the police made a concerted effort to find her and did so within half an hour. We offered them a reward, but they refused, saying a good word now and then would be a better sign of appreciation. Twice our neighbour broke out our car window. The first time, too much time had passed and no fingerprints were left. The second time, a neighbour let us know immediately, a print was obtained, and they found the culprit, whose mother was forced to pay for replacing the second window. She also took measures so that the situation never occurred again. Another time, a gang was terrorising our building and finally our neighbours caught them. We helped hold the culprits until the police came. Since they were minors and no material harm had been done (just faeces smeared on the walls), no retribution or repayment was ever made, but they have left our building alone since then. Another time about 20 youths, male and female, were beating another youth up in our courtyard. We called the police but the gang left within minutes as they realised staying around was not in their best interest. We figured it was better they left the youth they were stomping alone than that the police surprise them in the act. We called the police back when the youths left so they would not waste time looking in the courtyard. I have no idea whether they caught any of them subsequently or not. Another time a young Scot went out to smoke a cigarette in an isolated spot near our house at 2 am and was raped. No one responded to hereinafter referred to as the cries for help. She did not recognise the rapists and soon left the country in disgust. Once again, most of these situations are beyond help. An investigation is just a waste of money. But we do not let our daughter wander outside freely like we both did as children.

These seems like a lot of crime for one short period. But please remember I live in a city of several hundred thousand people and there are literally hundreds in a stone’s throw of my home. With such population densities, it is no wonder that there is so much crime evident.

As to robberies, usually they are carried out by people living far away. The gang that was robbing the building of my friend mentioned above lived in Alytus. They were only caught because a dog started acting strangely and the owner called the police. They surrounded the area as these gangs are well organised. They have lookouts everywhere. As soon as the police approach, they are out of there. That day the police arrested all of them. End of problem.

I have noticed a drastic improvement in the quality of the police officers in the 14 years I have been in Lithuania. When I came here people who could not find work elsewhere often joined the police. Thus their intelligence was often low and their training abysmal. One felt sorry for the culprits when calling the police because it was rumoured that they often administered ‘justice’ themselves. You don’t hear such stories now. We called the police a few days ago to remove some homeless men from our stairwell and they treated the culprits with respect. They simply told the men to pack their things and leave. They spoke for a while, so I imagine they told them where to find free lodgings and food. Then they waited downstairs to see that the men actually left, rather than arresting them.

Next time, please tell the whole story instead of just adding to the problem.

Arturas Bakanauskas

Category : Opinions

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