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Issues and Reports
Issues & Reports No 11.
VICTIMS OF CRIME
IN THE BALKAN REGION
Ugljesa Zvekic and Boyan Stankov
The advent of 1989 in the
former socialist states of Eastern and Central Europe generated a process of political, economic and social change oriented towards the promotion of market economy, pluralistic democracy and transparency and
accountability in public management. This is not only a matter of desiderata
for good governance but also of a public role in, and support for, accountable management of the public sphere. Promoting legal certainty and concern for community needs and victims' rights are as important as creating opportunities for economic and social well-being. Crime concerns and human rights centered criminal justice are important instruments and measures of political and social transformation.
Providing accountable, efficient, effective and equitable administration of criminal justice requires instruments for the development, management and evaluation of criminal policies and
crime prevention programmes and initiatives. This cannot be achieved in the absence of comprehensive, reliable and timely information to allow for informed decision-making, monitoring, evaluation and
forecasting of future developments and needs. Therefore, information on crime and criminal justice operations is of paramount importance in promoting legal certainty, security and the overall well-being of
The two most important sources of this information are the official statistics on the operation of the criminal justice process and agencies thereof and data on citizens'
experiences of criminal victimisation and contacts with agencies involved in security and prevention. Both were either lacking or not made available to the public in the former socialist states, thus
depriving citizens from participation in public management of conflicts, on the one hand, and the criminal justice system from serving the community, on the other.
From 1991 onwards, the
International Crime Victim Survey became a joint endeavour of UNICRI and the Ministry of Justice of the Netherlands with the substantial financial support of the Dutch Government as well as country-specific
support from UK, Canada and Italy. Among the sixty countries participating in the ICVS there are 18 Eastern and Central European countries, including five Balkan countries, namely Albania (Tirana), Bulgaria
(Sofia), the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia
(Skopje), Romania (Bucharest) and Yugoslavia (Belgrade). The survey was carried out in these countries in 1996-97, thanks to the financial support of the
Dutch Ministries of Justice and Foreign Affairs and the UK Home Office.
Upon the completion of the surveys, a policy-oriented round table on Victims of Crime in the Balkan Region
was held in Tsigov Chark, Bulgaria, on 20-21 February 1998. It discussed the results of the ICVS and their relevance for policy analysis and development of strategies and programmes with a view to enhancing the role of crime prevention and criminal justice in the process of
democratisation. The meeting was organised jointly by UNICRI and the General Prosecutor's Office of Bulgaria, with the participation of international experts as well as experts from Bulgaria.
The output of the seminar in terms of recommendations and policy suggestions as well as its proceedings will be forwarded to the International Conference on
Surveying Crime: A Global Perspective, jointly organised by UNICRI, the Ministry of Justice of the Netherlands, the Council of Europe and the Italian Institute of Statistics
(ISTAT), to be held in Rome
in November 1998.
|·||To promote victim surveys at the national and international levels, including participation in the Fourth International Crime Victim Survey in the year 2000. |
|·||As the survey results and analyses have already been presented to policy makers and the mass media in each participating country, to further promote their use in the development of effective crime
|·||To enhance the rights and protection of victims/witnesses in the criminal justice process with particular attention to women and children. Future victim surveys should pay attention to the role of
victims in all phases of the criminal justice process.|
|·||To promote international co-operation among Balkan countries for the development of common strategies on transnational organised crime.|
|·||To promote technical co-operation and regular exchange of information among Balkan countries.|
|·||To promote bilateral and multilateral co-operation among criminological research institutions in the Balkan countries, including information on the most important problems and exchange of literature.
|·||To present the results of this Seminar and its report - hereby published - to the mass media and policy structures as well as to academic communities in each participating country. It was also agreed
that the report will be presented at the International Conference on Surveying Crime: A Global Perspective, to be organised by UNICRI in Rome in November 1998. |
|·||To enhance victim support schemes and promote the establishment of mechanisms for victim compensation beyond the criminal justice system.|
|·||To explore the role of research in the development of training curricula for police, judges, prosecutors and defence lawyers.|
|·||To strengthen contacts with the United Nations Interregional Crime and Justice Research Institute (UNICRI) and the European Institute for Crime Prevention and Control, affiliated to the United
The participants expressed their gratitude to the General Prosecutor's Office of the Republic of Bulgaria and the Council for Criminological Research for hosting this meeting, and to the Ministries of
Justice and Foreign Affairs of The Netherlands as well as UNICRI for their support. It was strongly recommended that similar meetings be organised on a periodical basis and on specific topics in the Balkan
Overview of discussions
Stankov, Council for Criminological Research, Sofia, Bulgaria
The reports which present the results of the country surveys and
discussions on them highlight several main points:
- Crime rates have increased. Organised crime does exist, although some of the countries do not concede this. Victimisation rates are alarming, the causes being political, economic and financial
instability, the difficult transition to a market economy and the transformation of ownership. The stratification of society is growing, unemployment and poverty have reached high levels, and career
opportunities are limited. Local conflicts, including armed conflicts in the Balkans, intensify
- Fear of crime and lack of trust in the capacity of the state to protect citizens from crime are a result of
victimisation. Secondary victimisation erodes the concept of democratic governance.
Contradictory public attitudes are manifest: the public is in favour of etatisme
as a means of providing greater security, on the one hand, but also supports liberal economic relations on the other. In the absence of effective control mechanisms, new market relations have become a breeding ground for new forms of crime. Consumer fraud and corruption are serious social problems.
- Penal policy in a situation characterised by high victimisation rates is inconsistent. Experts stress that the effectiveness of criminal justice depends on the certainty of punishment rather than on
its severity. It is generally agreed that there is no correlation between punishment and crime rates. The public is in favour of very severe types of punishment insofar as the law does not provide
modern mechanisms to protect against crime and to remedy the damage incurred. Emphasis is placed on the need to incriminate offences that occur within the family, such as domestic sexual violence.
Victim protection is still a secondary issue among law makers. This conservative attitude is due to an inaccurate assessment of the nature of crime, as well as to limited financial resources that do
not allow for the implementation of victim support policies. The prevention of victimisation requires the statutory regulation of witness' immunity.
- The media play an important role in shaping public opinion, concepts of crime and victimisation and attitudes towards the law and the institutions. Confidence in the police remains low and there is
also a problem of victimisation reduction strategies. Political instability is the root cause of frequently changing strategies based on different concepts.
- The participants shared the view that continuous co-operation is needed in the study of the problems of crime victims in the Balkan region as a step towards working out joint strategies.
The International Crime Victim Survey in the Balkan Countries
Anna Alvazzi del
The ICVS was carried out in 1996-97 in five countries in the Balkan region:
Albania (Tirana), Bulgaria (Sofia), the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia
(Skopje), Romania (Bucharest) and Yugoslavia (Belgrade). Within the ICVS, these countries belong to the regional group of the
countries in transition, which includes 18 Eastern-Central European countries as well as Kyrgyzstan (a member of the CIS) and Mongolia.
In general, one-year victimisation rates observed in the Balkan
countries were slightly lower than the average for the group of countries in transition. This holds true for burglary, theft of car, contact crimes (an aggregate rate composed of robbery, assault with force
and sexual assault) and consumer fraud. On the other hand, corruption in the Balkan region was slightly higher than the average for countries in transition. Bulgaria and Yugoslavia were the countries in
which consumer fraud and corruption of public officials and police were more frequently reported to the
ICVS. The respondents mentioned having been victims of consumer fraud in more than 50% of cases
(against a global average of 25%), while episodes of corruption affected 19% and 17% respectively (against a 11% global average).
Burglary rates counted 3%. This is below the average for
countries in transition and the New World which leveled at 4%, Latin America (5%) and Africa (8%). The only Balkan country with a higher burglary rate than the sub-regional average was Bulgaria (6%).
Theft of car (less than 1%) was approximately half the global average and, in fact, the Balkan region ranked second lowest after Asia. Small differences were observed among the five
participating countries, the lowest rates being recorded in Albania, Romania and Macedonia. As regards theft from car, the average in the Balkan countries (8%, the same as Western Europe and countries in
transition) was higher than the global average (7%), but still lower than in the New World (i.e. North America, Australia and New Zealand) and Latin America (9%). Theft from car was particularly frequent in
Bulgaria (13%) and Yugoslavia (9%).
Contact crime (2%, the same as Western Europe, the New World and countries in transition), was lower than the global average (3%). The observed rates for
the three types of contact crime were consistent across the Balkan countries. The exceptions, with higher rates of assault with force compared to the rest of the region, were Romania (4%) and Yugoslavia
(3%), while sexual assault was particularly frequent in Albania (3%).
Survey respondents from the Balkan region were not very concerned with crime prevention devices and measures for their household, a
pattern consistently observed in all countries in transition. Burglar alarms were installed only in 3% of the households (against a 10% global average), while 12% of the respondents mentioned other crime
prevention devices such as window grills, door locks or high fences (27% on average). Yet, the perceived likelihood of burglary in the next twelve months (49%) ranks second to Latin America only (57%).
Finally, opinions on sentencing also present an important measure of citizens' reactions to crime which might be related to victimisation experience. The question referred to five types of
sentences considered most appropriate for a recidivist burglar (a 21-year-old man who has stolen a colour TV), imprisonment being the most severe sanction among those proposed. Imprisonment was indeed the
preferred sentence by 49% of the respondents in the Balkan countries, a less punitive attitude than the global average (52%). The countries where imprisonment was less frequently chosen were Bulgaria (40%),
Macedonia (41%) and Yugoslavia (42%).
Victims and Police in the Balkan Region
The relationship between citizens and the State is one of the most critical signposts
for the assessment of the level of
democratisation. In this context, confidence between citizens/victims and the police is of particular importance. Changes in policy and attitudes towards the police in
countries in transition are explored on the basis of the ICVS carried out in five Balkan countries, from the group of twenty countries in transition in which the survey was conducted between 1996 and 1997.
While not exclusively an indicator of confidence, propensity to report crimes to the police represents a rather fair assessment of the relationship. This is particularly important in countries in transition
undergoing changes in the organisation and role of policing in which critical or negative attitudes towards the police impact on reporting no less than the crime type in question. On average, the reporting
levels in countries in transition are lower than in the industrialised countries and there was no significant change in the 1991-1996 period between the two "sweeps" of the
In terms of
crime prevention and control, the ICVS confirms that public safety is still very much police business, and that citizens across the world expect more police presence and more police efficiency, as a minimum.
Seeking safety, less crime and less fear of crime is a process in which all parties have a role to play. There appears to be a strong relationship between satisfaction with police performance, crime
reporting and frequency of patrolling. These findings strongly support the idea that an elementary requirement for good policing in crime prevention consists in a systematic police presence which both
increases the feeling of safety among the citizens and satisfaction with the police. Needless to say, both are in turn important for public security. An increased feeling of safety which has to do with
police presence increases public satisfaction with, and confidence in, the police. This is not a matter of more investment in the number of personnel and/or equipment, or rather not only that. It is much
more a matter of a more rational policy of the allocation of resources, and it is very much a matter of a general democratisation of public institutions and services to be made sensitive to the needs of the
clients and accountable to the public. It is then a matter of changes in the culture of police-citizen relationships. Such a change requires, at the same time, more and less than conventional skill-related
training, better equipment and other types of assistance are able to provide for.
There is still a lot of dissatisfaction with the police, particularly in terms of the ways in which the police deal with
reported cases and control residential areas. The fear that a burglary will happen in the near future is widely diffused. Despite investments in police reform, the overall results as evaluated by citizens
and victims are far from satisfactory. Citizens are concerned with outcomes, everyday police behaviour and police culture in general. All these take place in a wider context of the socio-economic and
political changes and the development of service orientation and practice of public administration, police included.
Corruption of public servants and in particular of the police is high in
countries in transition which indicates that reforms are needed both in terms of providing an adequate remuneration for police work as well as promoting ethical standards of
behaviour. Along these lines
further efforts are needed to change both the police culture as well as citizens' cultural images of the police from that of guardian of the state interest to servant of the citizens and guardian of the rule
of law. In some countries it was noted that social esteem of the police force somewhat declined following the period of independence in which the police were seen as protectors of the national interest. The
ICVS results also suggest that the social esteem of the police needs to be contextualised within the newly emerging scale of institutional values in which institutions that more typically representative the
market economy, such as banks and alike, enjoy a higher reputation. In some countries police managers and mass media portray the crime situation as characterised by organised crime, drug trafficking, money
laundering, etc., and show less concern with every day crime and public order issues. In addition, in countries in which the process of economic and political change has not progressed much, policing is
still seen as the repression of political dissent rather than effective crime prevention and reduction for the service of citizens.
Therefore, appreciation of policing cannot be merely
reduced to clearance rates, but also encompasses service orientation and sensitivity to community needs as well as to victims' and human rights. The police must match new institutional and citizens'
individual values and expectations.
Victimisation problems in Albania during its transition
Vasilika Hysi, Faculty of Law, University of Tirana, Albania
Majko, Prosecutor General's Office Republic of Albania, Tirana, Albania
Albania's period of transition has been accompanied by an
increase in crime rates as well as by the presence of new forms of crime. The most evident of these are organised crime, homicide, kidnapping for profit, business crime, the cultivation of and trafficking in
narcotics, trafficking in prostitution, and car theft.
Lack of information on the so-called "dark figures" of crime, and the need for more information on crime, crime victims, public attitudes towards the
police and reported crime rates, led to Albania's participation in the International Crime Victim Survey in 1996. The aims of the survey corresponded to most of the needs of Albania, both during the period
of the study and still today.
The data collected during the survey show that Albania's period of transition was, and continues to be characterised by an increase in the risk of
particularly in 1995 and the first months of 1996, not to consider the year 1997. This explains why the topic of crime arose in conversation in 69% of the interviewed households. Most of the respondents had
been victims of property crime. Although violent crime rates are low, they registered an increase in 1995. Like all other countries in transition, corruption is a very frequent crime in Albania. It is
considered normal to pay a bribe in order to have something done quickly and efficiently. On the other hand, people themselves have encouraged corruption by offering to pay for illegal acts.
The growth in crime has increased people's fear of crime and sense of insecurity. Fear of crime is closely linked with the political, economic and social problems that arise in periods of transition and the
weakness of state organs in preventing crime. The incapacity of the police in dealing with crime and corruption among its own ranks, together with other factors, have made it easier to commit crime.
Nevertheless, most of the respondents (74%) had not taken any measures to protect their homes.
Only a small number of respondents reported crimes to the police (55%). The reasons for not
reporting varied: some respondents did not consider the crime serious enough, others solved the problems themselves, had no confidence in the police or felt that the police could not do anything.
The respondents had different opinions on the seriousness of crimes and these were connected with the amount and value of the property damaged as well as the psychological stress caused. The
victims tended to give more importance to the psychological rather than material consequences of the
As far as attitudes towards the police are concerned, police presence does
not seem to reflect their efficiency in doing their work. Only 44% of the respondents thought the police were doing a good job. Lack of confidence in the police led to lack of co-operation with them and an
increase in the fear of crime. Fear of crime, lack of protection and insufficient crime prevention policies have made people adopt more severe attitudes towards punishment. When requested which punishment
was most appropriate for a recidivist burglar, 63% of the respondents preferred imprisonment to other measures.
The data collected during the survey show that very few of the victims had
received any assistance from victim support agencies. This can be explained by the fact that such agencies have only just started to operate in Albania.
During 1995-1996, the phenomenon of
pyramid schemes was widespread in Albania. The majority of Albanians did not work at all and secured their existence with the money invested in these schemes. Their collapse therefore caused a strong
reaction among the Albanians, which culminated in an uprising against government policy. In 1997 the state institutions ceased to exist and the state itself collapsed within a few hours.
Buildings in which courts, the prosecutor's office and local power were located were destroyed, followed by the storming of prisons and the release of all prisoners. The police were faced with enormous
problems during this period of chaos and suffered huge material and human loss. Official data point to 61 police officers being killed and 154 seriously injured. According to unofficial data, in 1997 more
than 2,000 persons were killed by firearms, over 200 drowned while crossing the sea in an attempt to migrate to other countries, some 100 people were victims of traffic accidents, and more than 50 girls were
kidnapped and hired as prostitutes in neighbouring countries.
Most of the conclusions of the survey were confirmed, although some of them had unpredicted developments. For example, robbery
and assault/threat are at their highest levels, as is the use of arms by criminals. Theft of car and homicide are also at very high levels.
The tragic period that Albania went through as well
as the increase in crime point to some policy implications:
|·||Given the political and economic systems that used to exist in all the Balkan countries before their transition, as well as the common problems currently being faced by all of them, particularly in
the field of crime, it is essential to encourage regional co-operation among the countries in the Balkan area. Joint surveys, conferences, seminars and round tables should address problems concerning
organised crime, trafficking in drugs, prostitution, the exploitation of children to commit crime by adults, and business crimes. |
|·||Peace, order and effective crime prevention cannot be achieved without public support. Within this context, one of the priorities is to heighten the public's awareness of the need to co-operate with
the police. An important step forward in this direction is to encourage reporting of crime to the police. This could be done, by example, by making it easier for citizens to call the police.|
|·||Co-operation between the police and neighbourhood communities could be an effective crime prevention measure and could help to decrease the risk of victimisation in the area.|
|·||Criminal policy could be improved by taking into consideration not only official data, but also data resulting from victimisation surveys.|
|·||The publication of a sourcebook of criminal justice for the countries in the region could be a useful initiative. |
Crime victims in Bulgaria (1997): a summary
Stankov, Council for Criminological Research, Sofia, Bulgaria
The 1997 International Crime Victim Survey in Sofia confirmed the trend
of intensive victimisation of Bulgarian society, which began to take shape after 1990.
The results of the survey carried out on 1,079 households point to several main conclusions. First, the real number of
victims is larger than that shown in official statistics. In the period between 1992-1996 and in the first half of 1997, 11% of households were victims of car theft (corresponding to 0.3 per 100,000
population); 57% were victims of theft (12.5 per 100,000 population); 33% of car vandalism; and 22% were victims of burglary. 79% of the burglary victims (11.5 per 100,000 population) reported that money or
other property had been stolen. Burglaries were attempted in 14% of the households, and 8% of Sofia's residents aged over 16 had been victims of robbery (3.1 per 100,000 population). Furthermore, 13% of the
respondents were attacked and 7% (1 per 100,000 population) reported sexual offences against women. A rather large proportion of the respondents were victims of unconventional offences: 55% were victims of
consumer fraud and 18% were pressed to give a bribe. The ratio of fraud victims was 55 per 100,000 population while that of victims of corruption was 19.1 per 100,000 population.
there was an increase in victimisation at the end of the period under review. A rise in all types of crime was reported in the first half of 1997. 57% of theft of car occurred in 1996-97, of which 15% of car
theft and 26% of theft from car in the first half of 1997 alone. The last years of the reference period also saw more burglaries (14% in the first half of 1997 compared to an annual average of 18%) and
attempted burglaries (19% in the first half of 1997), as well as violent crimes: 18% of robbery victims said the incident occurred in 1997, 33% in 1996, and 49% between 1992 and 1995.
an average of 60-70% of conventional crimes are latent. The dark figure is surprisingly high for thefts from cars (69% of the victims did not report the incident to the police), car vandalism (74%),
attempted burglary (80%) and robbery (61%). The extremely high dark figure for sexual offences (90%) distorts the picture of these crimes. Victimisation in the area of economic crime, which has traditionally
high dark figures, is increasing with the disarray of the state.
Victimisation heightens people's sense of insecurity. Personal experience and the media teach people to live in constant fear
for their own life as well as for their family and property. There is a growing sense that everyone must take care of himself (60%) and social solidarity has been undermined.
situation of high victimisation rates, people do not have much confidence in the police and are dissatisfied with police effectiveness. The victims that had reported an incident claimed that the police did
not do enough in 44% of thefts from cars, 46% of burglaries and 44% of robberies; and that the police did not show any interest in 32% of thefts from cars, 26% of burglaries and 44% of robberies. This
explains people's reluctance to report incidents to the police. The view that the police can do nothing, held by an average of 23% of victims of property crimes, or that the police won't do anything, shared
by 20% of victims of property crimes, accounts for the high rate of latent
The results of the survey highlight the need for a modern
anti-victimogenic policy. However, although
it is generally acknowledged that Bulgaria has no such policy, the country's serious economic and financial difficulties make it impossible to finance new crime prevention strategies.
crime situation in Bulgaria is becoming increasingly complicated. Instability in the Balkans and the Black Sea region leads to higher crime rates, which increases the risk of
victimisation. Although in
absolute and relative terms victimisation rates in Bulgaria are below the level of developed Western countries, there is concern over the shift from the relatively low crime rates and uncomplicated crimes of
the not-so-distant past to a new and unpredictable pattern of crime.
Citizens' confidence in the police in the Republic of Macedonia
Violeta Caceva, Institute for Sociological, Political and
Juridical Research, Skopje, FY Republic of Macedonia
The following is an analysis of the people's propensity to report criminal offences to the police and its relationship with citizens'
confidence in the police. It is based on the results of the International Crime Victim Survey in Macedonia, a project conducted on the basis of a standard questionnaire and methodology. Only the results of
the survey concerning a sample of 700 respondents in
Skopje, the capital of Macedonia, are reviewed in this analysis.
Only 31% of the criminal offences suffered by the respondents in the
past five years were reported to the police. The rate is higher (42%) when conventional crime only is taken into account.
An important element of the analysis were the reasons given by the
victims for not reporting the offence to the police. According to the survey results, only 2% of the interviewed persons manifested a negative attitude towards the police as a reason for not reporting the
criminal offence. More of them, i.e. 16%, believed that the police could not do anything. This answer was very general however and could hide other reasons such as lack of confidence in police effectiveness.
The most frequent reason given by victimised respondents for not reporting an offence to the police was that they did not consider it serious enough, and as many as 52% of them cited this
reason. This response requires further analysis, however, for two reasons. First of all, the crimes covered by the survey (with the sole exception of theft from cars involving the removal of objects of
little value) cannot objectively be considered as acts which are not serious. Second, the victims' subjective assessment of the seriousness of crimes does not correspond to their statement that the offence
was not serious enough to be reported to the police. In fact, 82% of the victims of burglary and 71% of the victims of robbery considered the offences very serious or serious, and 56% of the victims of
sexual offences and 67% of the victims of assault/threats thought the offence was serious.
It can be assumed therefore that there are other reasons, and not the non-serious nature of the
offence, for not reporting. Victims might consider it useless, given the low damage caused, to report the offence, or they might want to avoid giving a public negative assessment of the police. When asked to
assess police performance, most of the respondents (39%) stated that the police were not doing a good job while 35% thought they were doing a good job. However, it is interesting to note that one out of
every four interviewed persons (26%) did not reply. In fact, this question received the highest percentage of refusals to reply from among the questions posed in the questionnaire. This leads one to the
conclusion that there are certain reasons behind citizens' reluctance to assess the results of police work. This could be explained by comparing the questions on the assessment of police performance with
those relating to feelings of personal security. The comparison shows that the respondents providing a positive assessment of police work also expressed a higher degree of personal security than those with
negative assessments. It is interesting to note that the answers of those citizens who failed to assess the work of the police were similar to those of the citizens giving a negative assessment.
The best way to obtain a precise impression of the police is through direct personal experience and contact with them. This is very important because personal experience determines the
behaviour of citizens in relation to the police. According to the results of the survey, 54% of the interviewed persons that reported an offence to the police expressed satisfaction with the way the police
dealt with the case.
The above information points to a certain degree of mistrust of the police on the part of citizens, which is often not explicitly expressed. Further research is
therefore necessary to identify more precise causes for this state of affairs, i.e. whether it is due to lack of interest in, or incapacity of, the police or whether it is due to resistance towards the
police resulting from personal experiences or stereotypical beliefs. This information would be useful for police training courses, as well as for crime prevention and control
programmes. It could also be
useful in heightening the public's awareness of the problem and to improve police-community relationships.
The International Crime Victim Survey in Romania (1996)
Stanoiu & Horia Mihail Vasilescu, Juridical Research Institute of the Romanian Academy, Bucharest, Romania
Between 19 February and 23 March 1996, the Juridical Research Institute of the Romanian
Academy carried out the International Crime Victim Survey in Bucharest. The survey, using a standard questionnaire translated into Romanian, was conducted on a stratified random sample of 1,091 persons
(1,000 in Bucharest and 91 from two rural areas) aged over 16. The main criterion used was the residential status area. The data were collected by face-to-face interviews in the household of the respondents,
generally in the afternoon or early evening. No major problems were encountered.
The overall prevalence victimisation rate for 5 years was 53% and 27% for one year (1995). The highest rates
from among the single offences surveyed were for theft from car (35% of the owners reported such incidents, i.e. 14% of the total sample) and for personal theft (28%), which was mostly pickpocketing (79%).
Assaults/threats also had a high rate (12%), and in the majority of cases (56% of the total assaults/threats) force was used. Car theft (7 cases) was reported by households in the higher and middle status
areas, while half of the assault/threat victims lived in lower status areas and were predominantly men. The sexual incidents reported by the female respondents consisted mainly of offensive behaviour (61% of
the total), although two of the reported incidents were considered as rape by the respondents.
Consumer fraud had the highest prevalence rate at 38% and usually occurred in shops and
marketplaces. The respondents tended to consider these frauds as part of everyday life and unavoidable. Five of the respondents even asked the interviewers not to mention that they had been victims of such
frauds, because "everyday we are cheated in some way in a shop or at the market". One explanation for the high rate for this offence is the chronic lack of goods during the communist regime.
The highest rates for reporting an incident to the police were for burglary (82%), car theft and theft from car while sexual incidents were the least reported offences (only 8%). Particular
mention should be made of bribery (only 1 of the 123 victims of bribery reported the incident). Most of the respondents said they accepted to pay a bribe because they had no other way to solve the problem.
The most frequently cited reasons for not reporting the incident to the police were that the police could do nothing to solve the case and that the incident was not serious enough. The feeling
that the police cannot solve the case was more frequent among victims of robbery and sexual incidents. With respect to sexual incidents and violence committed by known persons, lack of legal provisions make
the police very reluctant to get involved with family conflicts. Lack of legal provisions regarding the confidentiality and protection of victims of sexual offences also prevent them from reporting such
The most frequent reasons for reporting the incident to the police was that the victim wanted the offender to be caught and/or punished, especially the victims of burglary and
robbery. Insurance was not cited as a reason for reporting. This is because the insurance system is not well developed in Romania and, with the exception of obligatory insurance such as for cars, it is
expensive and unpopular.
Victims' satisfaction with the way the police dealt with their problem was relatively low. With the exception of victims of assaults/threats (almost 50% of whom were
satisfied with the police), one third of the respondents expressed satisfaction. The most frequently cited reasons for dissatisfaction were that the police did little to solve the case and that they were not
interested. The two women who had reported sexual incidents to the police had found them rude, although it is not evident whether this was due to certain behaviour of the police or to a certain sensitivity
of the women.
A large number of the respondents did not reply to the questions concerning attitudes towards the police. Police activity in controlling crime was regarded as satisfactory by only
31% of the respondents while some 50% thought the police were not doing a good job.
Approximately one third of the respondents did not take any measure to prevent a burglary. The most favoured
measures were the installation of door locks and (especially in lower and middle status areas) the maintenance of watchdogs (32%), probably because they are the least expensive. No one participated in a
neighbourhood watch scheme because they are unknown in Romania.
Generally speaking, the majority of the respondents had punitive attitudes. When asked for the most appropriate punishment for a
young recidivist offender, 62% favoured imprisonment, the most frequent period of detention chosen being 1 to 5 years. Other physical forms of punishment were also proposed (1.5% cited cutting off a hand,
and 1% suggested other mutilations). Only 2% proposed the use of re-educational measures.
The results of the survey show that the 1,091 respondents were victims of 583 criminal events in the
last 5 years (of which 293 in 1995). Although, at present, there are no means to compare these data with official data, the results show that a significant part of criminal events are not known by the police.
The results also point to a certain lack of confidence in the police, especially for more delicate matters such as sexual incidents or corruption. They also point to a request for increased
police presence at the local community level.
A large majority of the respondents who had been victims thought the creation of victim assistance agencies would be very useful. The authors of
this report also believe that this should become a current priority.
Victimisation in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY)
Nikolic-Ristanovic, Institute for Criminological and
Sociological Research, Belgrade, Federal Republic of Yugoslavia
Belgrade is the commercial, traffic and cultural centre of Serbia and the FRY. It is an important crossroad linking Europe to Asia.
Although the FRY did not officially participate in the war in former Yugoslavia, Belgrade was heavily influenced by it. The proximity of the war zone, the great number of individuals from the FRY that
participated in the war and illegally retained the weapons in their possession upon their return, the considerable part of the state budget spent to help Serbs in Croatia and Bosnia, and the huge influx of
refugees produced by the war, all produced a strong economic crisis and contributed to a rise in crime. Moreover, the economic situation produced by the war was worsened by the UN sanctions introduced on 31
May 1992. A large number of people lost their jobs, although they remained officially employed, or were deprived of the most elementary living conditions. The shortage of petrol and other necessities on the
market produced a huge shadow economy, which became the principal source of revenue of a large number of inhabitants of Belgrade and Serbia. Belgrade, once one of the most secure capitals of Europe, became a
Mecca for very colourful illegality (especially violent and property crime), which turned the city into a very unsafe place to live in. Thus, differently to other Balkan countries, the rise of criminal
victimisation was connected to the war rather than to the process of social transformation, which is at its earliest phase. Also, contrary to other Balkan countries whose borders were recently opened, those
of the FRY are more closed than ever. Nevertheless, they are still open for crime and criminal organisations so that the FRY has seen an increase in all forms of organised crime, including illegal trade of
weapons, drugs and women. At the same time, changes within the police have made them less efficient and less interested in preventing increased crime. While the number of police officers has increased
enormously in the last 6 years, their efficiency and attitude toward citizens has worsened. The police are comprised of young people who have not received proper training and who do not have even a basic
knowledge of respect for human rights. At the same time, they are strongly militarised and trained more to be used as riot police squads to protect the ruling elite against citizens, rather than to protect
citizens and help victims of crime. This change in the role of the police has shaped their public image as well as people's confidence in them and willingness to report crimes.
statistical data show that 53,724 crimes were reported in Belgrade in 1994, a 29% rise compared to 1990. The biggest crime increase occurred in 1993, i.e. in the middle of war in the former Yugoslavia and
was for serious property crime, violent crime and illegal possession of arms. After 1994, the number of reported offenders decreased to 42,721 and 40,478 in 1995 and 1996 respectively. In 1996, for the first
time after six years, the number of reported offenders in Belgrade was less than in 1990, i.e. before the war.
The ICVS was carried out in Belgrade in 1996 on a random sample of 1,094
respondents taken on the basis of voting lists. The sample design assured the equal representation of respondents according to gender and number of inhabitants of particular communes.
data on prevalence victimisation rates in Belgrade over the five-year period covered by the survey show extremely high levels of criminal
victimisation. 85% of respondents, including both victims of
conventional crimes and victims of consumer fraud and corruption said they had been victims of crime during the past five years, and 41% in 1995. When asked about their victimisation in 1995, respondents
stated most frequently that they were victims of consumer fraud (50%) and corruption (17%). A high percentage of respondents who reported being victimised in 1995 also reported theft from car (9%), personal
theft (8%), car vandalism (7%) and assault/threat (6%). Among the female respondents who were victimised in 1995, 2% reported being victims of sexual incidents. 3% of the respondents reported burglary, 3%
reported attempted burglary and 1% reported robbery.
The majority of victims considered the
crime(s) they suffered as very serious or somewhat serious. When asked how safe they felt when
walking alone in their neighbourhood at night, 21% replied that they felt very safe, 31% felt rather safe, 33% were somewhat insecure, and 14% felt very unsafe. If these findings are compared with research
on fear of crime carried out in Belgrade in 1988 on a sample of 400 respondents, the results of the 1996 ICVS show an increase in fear of crime in Belgrade. It seems, however, that respondents feel even less
secure than the above answers might suggest. As many as 49%, or half of the respondents, replied that they avoided certain places and people for security reasons, while 6% never went out at night. Moreover,
male respondents tended to hide personal feelings of insecurity and offer an exaggerated picture of personal security. The feeling of insecurity was also confirmed by the replies to the question on the
possibility of burglary within the next 12 months: only 22% of respondents thought the event was improbable, 14% thought it was very probable, and as many as 37% thought it was probable.
majority of respondents (33%) replied that their apartments had no protection against burglary. Those whose apartments were protected most frequently mentioned the interphone (19%), special door locks (17%),
a neighbourhood watch scheme (10%) and a watchdog (9%). Only 33% of the crimes experienced by respondents were reported to the police. The most frequently cited reasons for not reporting were: that the crime
was not serious enough; the police could do nothing anyway; the police usually don't want to handle such cases; the victims solved the problem themselves; and that they did not dare to report the crime for
fear of retaliation. A closer look at the police related reasons show that they are the most frequently cited (almost half for some crimes) reasons for non-reporting given by the respondents. As in other
developing and transitional countries, reasons indicating lack of effectiveness and unwillingness of the police figure prominently among reasons for not reporting in general and comprise the largest part of
police related reasons. The majority of victims who reported crimes to the police were dissatisfied with the way the police reacted. The most frequently cited reasons for dissatisfaction were that the
police: a) didn't do enough; b) were not interested; c) did not find or arrest the
criminal(s); and d) did not recover the lost property. As in other countries in transition and unlike the developed world,
incorrect treatment by police and lack of information were among the less frequently mentioned reasons. It is evident that, contrary to developed countries, dissatisfaction with the police is more linked
with economic interests and social expectations than to police culture, approach and procedure. This may partly be because people in countries in transition, rather than expecting the police to respect
citizens' rights, are afraid of them. This is especially true in FRY where, as mentioned above, the police are organised and trained to control citizens rather than to protect them. However, the poor
economic situation and lack of insurance force people to rely on the effectiveness of police investigation. This explains why their satisfaction is so closely related to police effectiveness in finding the
offender and recovering property.
Despite the increase in crime and fear of crime, no efforts have been made to improve the legal protection of crime victims. However, in November 1997, the
Victimology Society of Serbia was established with the main aim of initiating law reforms and training police, prosecutors and judges in order to improve the position of crime victims in FRY.
20 FEBRUARY 1998
Opening of the Seminar
Tatarchev, Chief Prosecutor of the Republic of Bulgaria
Zvekic, Deputy Director, UNICRI
Presentation of UNICRI Research Programme on countries in the Balkan region
Dr. Anna Alvazzi del
Frate, Research Officer, UNICRI
Report of the ICVS in Albania
Vasilika Hysi, Head of Penal Department, Faculty of Law, University of Tirana, Albania
Majko, Chief of Statistics and Information Branch, Prosecutor General's Office Republic of
Albania, Tirana, Albania
Report of the ICVS in FYR of Macedonia
Caceva, Institute for Sociological,
Political and Juridical Research,
Skopje, FYR of Macedonia
Report of the ICVS in Romania
Prof. Horia M.
Vasilescu, Juridical Research Institute of Romanian Academy, Bucharest,
21 FEBRUARY 1998
Report of the ICVS in FR of Yugoslavia
Dr. Vesna Nikolic-Ristanovic & Dr. Ivana
Stevanovic, Researchers, Institute for
Criminological and Sociological Research, Belgrade, FR of Yugoslavia
Report of the ICVS in Bulgaria
Stankov, Deputy Chairman,Council for Criminological Research,
Discussion on the possibilities for co-operation in the field of crime research in the Balkan region
Zvekic, Deputy Director, UNICRI