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Economic Crisis Causes Spike in Crime in Russia


President Dmitri Medvedev is calling for constant police monitoring to maintain social order in Russia amid growing unemployment and crime linked to the global economic crisis. Mr. Medvedev is also warning law enforcement officials to fight crime instead of harassing businesspeople.

Speaking to hundreds of law enforcement officials at the Interior Ministry in Moscow, President Medvedev said growing unemployment could exacerbate crime in Russia.

Mr. Medvedev says the main task for law enforcement is paying more attention to social order, because Russia finds itself in a rather complicated situation influenced by the global economic crisis, which has increased unemployment and the country's other social problems. As a result, says the Kremlin leader, individuals seek to take advantage of the situation, adding that police should not allow it to become more complicated than it already is. He proceeds to task law enforcement with monitoring the situation throughout the regions of Russia and the country in general.

The nationwide Moskovskiy Komsomolets newspaper reports shoplifting is spreading among Russia's unemployed. Grocery stores are also being hit, and in some cases, individuals are reported hiding out of view of surveillance cameras to eat food on the premises. The newspaper says the number of daily shoplifting arrests in Moscow in January averaged 21, one-third higher than the same period two years ago.

Police last weekend were called out en masse in a number of Russian cities to monitor anti-government demonstrations sparked by economic difficulties. Most were poorly attended, with police outnumbering demonstrators, but about 3,000 people participated in the Far Eastern city of Vladivostok.

President Medvedev also alluded to corrupt officials who make money by shaking down legitimate entrepreneurs.

The Kremlin leader says much has been said recently about preventing bureaucrats from interfering in business, especially small and medium-size firms. He warns law enforcement that they should only conduct searches if there is official notice of wrongdoing and within the framework of a criminal investigation.

Russian bureaucrats and police are widely accused of blackmailing legitimate business, based on random searches and trumped up charges.

President Medvedev says police should also combat growing crime by foreign workers. Millions of them came to Russia in recent years from impoverished post-Soviet states to do menial work. Many of those migrants are not only losing their jobs during the current crisis, but are also being attacked, even killed, by nationalist groups who blame foreign workers for driving down wages and taking jobs away from Russians.

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