11 percent more crimes in first half of 2023 than at same point last year

Sign warning against potential theft.
Sign warning against potential theft. Source: Siim Lõvi /ERR

According to data provided by the Ministry of Justice, eleven percent more crimes were registered in Estonia in the first half of 2023 than during the same time period last year. A total of 13,621 crimes were registered in the first six months of the year.

3,692 violent crimes were reported in the first half of 2023, five percent more than in the same period last year.

There were 11 homicides or attempted homicides reported, the same number as in the first half of the previous year.

Thefts were up 23 percent compared to the same period last year, with a total of 6,607 incidents reported.

For the second year in a row, shoplifting increased, with 3,100 thefts recorded. This was almost 1,000 more than at the same time a year before.

Thefts from dwellings and vehicles were down on year.

Shoplifting accounted for two thirds of reported thefts in the first half of 2023. There were 2,492 systematic thefts, half as many as during the first six months of last year. The vast majority of these were also committed in shops.

According to Markus Kärner, undersecretary for criminal policy at the Estonian Ministry of Justice, most shoplifting is done by systematic thieves, many of whom are alcoholics or drug addicts.

"The statistics show that thefts take place both for personal use and for resale. Alcohol, from cheap beer and vodka to expensive cognac, tops the list of stolen goods. Chocolate, nuts, candy and other confectionary is also frequently stolen. Cheese, various meat products and other small packaged items are the everyday foods, which are stolen the most, while toothpaste and shampoos are the most commonly stolen toiletries," Kärner said.

"Systematic theft is also a significant problem in petrol stations, whereby people leave without paying for the fuel they have taken," Kärner added.

Mari-Liis Sööt, head of the Ministry of Justice's analysis department, explained that some thefts are committed by addicts, while others are the work of organized groups.

"Addiction is a disease. This means that, for these people, getting access to treatment for addiction has to be addressed. It is part of healthcare. However, other thefts are committed in an organized manner. In these cases, you need to catch organized groups, which is the job of the police," she said.

"Looking at the data, we know that there are a few hundred people behind these systematic thefts, who hover between freedom and prison," Sööt added.

"There is no simple solution here. However, one possible solution can be found through a combination of social and penal policies. For these people, it is a question of addiction, work habits and social skills. Punitive policies alone can only provide short-term solutions. In the long term, it is necessary to address the need to discourage these people from stealing."

In order to prevent and reduce shoplifting, this year, the Ministry of Justice is set to conduct an analysis into the causes of petty theft. The analysis will examine the profiles of perpetrators in more detail, as well as at the frequency at which these crimes occur.

In the first six months of 2023, 1,408 acts of domestic violence were recorded, three percent more than during the same period last year.

A total of 1,462 cases of fraud and computer fraud were recorded in the first half of the year, an increase of 18 percent from the same period in 2022.

The number of serious computer crimes, that is crimes targeting computer data and systems, decreased by 27 percent when compared to the figures from last year.

Significant driving offences were the cause of 13 serious road accidents, seven of which involved drink driving.

"By the same time last year, there had been six accidents of this kind, two of which were caused by drunk drivers - so the number of these incidents has increased slightly on year," said Kärner.

1,038 cases of drink driving were recorded during the first six months of the year, 11 percent fewer than in the first half of 2022.


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Editor: Michael Cole

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