Violent crime on the rise

Violent crime is continuing to increase in Switzerland, despite a marked drop in the number of criminal offences registered last year.

This content was published on March 30, 2000 - 16:48

Violent crime is continuing to increase in Switzerland, despite a marked drop in the number of criminal offences registered last year. The 1999 crime statistics of the Federal Police Office show that young people are increasingly likely to resort to violence to solve their problems.

The figures reveal a sharp 6.5 per cent fall in overall crime, with record decreases in the number of thefts, especially of cars. But police said violent crimes, such as assault, rape, and other sexual offences are still on the increase, particularly among the young.

According to the records, there were 5,247 cases of bodily harm, 2,642 armed robberies, 447 rapes and 3,797 other sexual offences. There was also an increase in the number of threats or attacks against public officials to 676 cases.

But the police said Swiss crime statistics were not comprehensive enough, and like all such figures, depend very much on the willingness of the public to report crimes.

However, the massive drop in the number of thefts, in particular of cars is regarded as a reliable trend, and is attributed to police campaigns against burglaries, the mandatory introduction of anti-theft devices on all new cars, and not least, the fact that the eastern European markets for stolen cars are now getting saturated.

Over 50 percent of all crimes registered are committed by foreigners, and one fifth of the total are the work of what are called criminal tourists, that is, gangs mainly from former Communist countries who engage in hit and run crime.

Several Swiss police forces are trying to trace Romanian burglars who rob houses and supermarket stores, and send the looted cash, cigarettes, and cosmetics back to Romania by parcel post, after which the goods are distributed by the local mafia.

The police statistics on drugs show they are still widely available at low prices. The number of drug deaths fell from 210 in 1998 to 181, but police remain concerned about the vast amounts of drugs entering the country. Turkey is the main source of heroin on the Swiss market, while most of the cocaine is flown in from Latin America.

The police say they are also worried about a new drug that has appeared on the scene - Thai pills. Police say the stimulant is much more dangerous than Ecstasy. They say it is more addictive, aggressive and unpredictable, and can even lead to memory loss and invalidity.

Nevertheless, Interpol statistics show, Switzerland and Italy are the two safest countries in Europe. Anton Widmer, the director of the Federal Police Office, added that Switzerland remained the only country where female cabinet ministers can go shopping in the streets of the capital unaccompanied by bodyguards.

By Peter Haller

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