Crime rates in Bulgaria close to or even below the average EU, Interior Minister Report Shows

"Conventional crime rates in Bulgaria have been close to or even below the average EU levels since August 2005," Interior Minister Roumen Petkov said on Sunday, reporting on his Ministry's performance over the last two years, BTA informs.

In Bulgaria, 1,700 crimes happen annually per 100,000 population, whereas the rate in Germany is 8,000 crimes per 100,000 population, Petkov said.

Crimes against the person committed over the two-year period decreased more than 5 per cent from 2003-2005. Murders decreased some 4 per cent, and murder attempts also declined. Car thefts dropped 33 per cent.

Over the last two years, 55 per cent of reported crime cases were cleared. Officers solved a total of 11,239 crime cases. Police operations resulted in the seizure of 314 combat weapons and 24 kg of explosives. The authorities confiscated weapons from over 3,500 persons.

"In the fight against organized crime, the Interior Ministry interacts extremely well with prosecutors and the Finance Ministry," Petkov further said. Such interaction has resulted in
breaking 342 organized criminal groups, indicting 1,551 persons, and preventing 57 million leva in economic loss.

Enforcers uncovered 11 illegal operations counterfeiting currency, credit and debit cards, IDs and other documents. Investigators worked on 5,644 drug-related crime cases. The
Interior Ministry and the National Customs Agency impounded over 6,800 kg of illegal drugs.

The period since August 2005 has also seen the disruption of four illegal laboratories producing synthetic drugs and 34 transborder drug trafficking rings.

"The principle of zero tolerance towards corruption and the effort to suppress the phenomenon remain a priority for the Interior Ministry," Petkov said. Since August 2005, Ministry officers have solved 927 cases of malfeasance and aggrandizement, 805 tax crimes, 79 cases of disadvantageous transactions and 182 bribery cases.

Fifty-four Interior Ministry officers have been fired for corruption. "The Ministry is focused on combating corruption among traffic and border police, which are most susceptible to
corrupting pressures," he said.

"In the last two years, we have made a very big step forward in strengthening the status of Bulgarian services within European structures," he said.

Petkov conceded that, despite its achievements, his Ministry is still failing to meet public expectations. "But we need to be able to make objective comparisons between the reality in this country and the other EU member states," he said.

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