Purges in police force leading to higher crime rate

ISTANBUL (CIHAN)- Police sources say the crime rate rose by 15 percent in the first three months of this year compared to the same period of the previous year, after the reassignment of 15,000 police officers to new positions in response to a corruption probe.

On Dec. 17, 2013, prosecutors ordered the arrests of several bureaucrats and businessmen close to the government as well as the sons of four ministers, who have since resigned, as part of a corruption investigation. In an attempt to fend off further raids and arrests against its supporters, the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government assigned police officers who it says are connected to a “parallel structure” trying to bring it down to positions where they cannot be as active. The result has been lessened security, recent data show.

In the first three months of this year, 150,000 acts of robbery were reported, compared to 106,000 in the same period of 2013. There were 160 reported murders in the first three months of this year compared to 86 in 2013. Fifty percent of the robbery cases took place in Turkey’s three biggest cities: Istanbul, Ankara and Izmir.

Former Supreme Court of Appeals Prosecutor Ahmet Gundel says a failure to enforce public safety measures is the main cause of the higher crime rate: “Gangs are using this situation [to their aantage]. The fact that theft incidents have increased points to this.”

Following the Dec. 17 corruption and bribery operation, the government sought to purge individuals it claims as supporters of the parallel structure in every public agency, but in the police department, 15,000 police officers were removed from their positions. Many experienced officers in the fields of intelligence, counterterrorism and public safety were assigned to positions where they could no longer be as influential.

Data from the National Police Department also suggest that there has been an increase in the number of women killed because of domestic violence this year. The number of women killed by their husbands or lovers in 2013 was 11 in the first three months, while that number rose to 19 this year. Police sources say some women who had been assigned protection have lost the officers in charge of protecting them after the government’s purges.

Retired Public Prosecutor Sacit Kayasu says another reason behind the increase in crime is a lack of motivation among police officers since Dec. 17. A police officer who asked to remain anonymous confirmed this idea, explaining: “There has been a serious loss of morale in the force. Many people don’t really want to bother.” Other sources note that investigations into organized crime have also declined sharply, putting the country’s safety at risk. Sources say crime has increased by 15 percent since December 2013.

(CihanToday’s Zaman)