The rate of homicides and other violence-related deaths in Estonia has risen significantly on year to May 2020, Baltic News Service reports, citing Ministry of Justice figures. Drink-driving cases also rose over the same period, though the overall crime rate actually fell.
A total of 19 people lost their lives due to acts of violence in the first five months of this year, the ministry says.
Minister of Justice Raivo Aeg (Isamaa) said that in 2019, six people lost their lives through acts of violence during the first five months of the year and 25 through the whole year, BNS reports, adding that the figure for 2019 might be reached by the mid-point of the year (the two Lihula shooting fatalities last Sunday are not included in the 19 for January-May).
Aeg said said that most homicides, manslaughters and other violent killings were alcohol-related, adding that the coronavirus lockdown was not to blame since the upward trend had started before the emergency situation was declared on March 12.
"The number of killings does not contain data for June, including the shooting that took place in Lihula. It can also be said that the emergency situation did not alter this trend; the number of killings started to grow already earlier," Aeg said.
Figures for drink-driving cases also grew significantly both when it comes to the first five months of the year, and the period of the emergency situation itself (which ended on May 17-ed.).
Drink-driving up, may be due to increased willingness to report
Driving while intoxicated cases which warranted punishment pursuant to criminal law, meaning an intoxication level of 1.5 permille or higher, numbered 1,188 in the five months of 2020, 22 percent more than the same period last year and also a new four-year high.
Of these, 571 – nearly half - were registered during the nine-and-a-half-week emergency situation.
Aeg noted that the uptick in drink-driving offenses can also be attributed to a greater willingness on the part of the public to inform the police.
"At the same time, it is still too early to estimate the impact of the emergency situation in relation to certain categories of crime, as the impact may hit later," he went on.
The total number of criminal offenses registered in the five months, 10,461, was, however, 2 percent smaller than the number registered during the same period in 2019.
During the emergency situation, 20 percent fewer criminal offenses were registered than during the same period the year before, or 3,985 and 5,003 respectively.
Overall crime rate falls
The overall crime level has, however, fallen slightly, BNS reports, fueled by a 6 percent decrease in reported cases of physical abuse, including domestic violence.
Cases of physical abuse in a close relationship numbered 1,443, 33 cases fewer than in the first five months of last year.
Cyber crime also fell: 361 were recorded in the first five months of the year, 15 percent less than in January-May 2019, though this was not expected at the time of the emergency situation.
"The emergency situation did not lead to an increase the numbers of cases of cyber fraud, meaning primarily fraud committed on sales portals and similar, as had been initially feared. From mid-March to May, as much as 50 percent fewer cases of fraud and cyber fraud were registered than during the same period last year," Aeg said.
Nonetheless, even here some caution is needed in categories. A minor increase has taken place in the numbers of crimes against computer systems which would have a more serious impact – potentially paralyzing the activity of a whole business and thus more dangerous in that sense, the minister said.
Reported crimes against property numbered 3,829 in the same period, roughly on a par with the same period last year, BNS reports.
Editor: Andrew Whyte