Crime is lower overall

  • Belgium’s recorded crime rate is stable, but lower in Wallonia and Brussels.
  • Home burglaries remain a challenge for prevention advisors

For the last five years the annual number of misdemeanors and felonies recorded by the Belgian police has remained stable. The combined annual police statistics show that some crimes dropped markedly in 2012 as compared to 2008: armed assault, domestic violence, simple assault, drug trafficking, rape, illegal sale and possession of firearms, theft of and from cars. Even murder and manslaughter were less frequent.

Using mathematical logic, if there are fewer of these crimes and the total remains stable, other have had increased: that’s what happened with home burglaries, electronic extortion and cybercrime, unarmed violent theft, theft of metals and pickpocketing. The principal is the same for drug-related crimes; international drug trafficking is down, while marijuana farming is exploding…

Overall, however, between 2011 and 2012 criminality has seen some improvement in French-speaking Belgium. There is a decrease by -6.4% in Brussels and by -4.6% in Wallonia.

Home burglaries. This is the figure that shows the highest increase since the turn of the century: 75,268 home burglaries were committed in 2012, an increase of 28.2% since 2008. To clarify this, for every 10,000 homes, 155 were burglarized and the burglary reported. The increase especially affected individual houses and the countryside, while the burglary rate for apartments dropped. This doesn’t mean that home security systems aren’t working, just the opposite. Considering the number of burglaries actually committed, the number of attempts was also up, and its proportion was greater than one-third. 33.7% of burglaries were unsuccessful attempts. The logic is simple, says Jean-Marie Brabant, the president of the permanent local police commission: “if someone needs more than three minutes to break into a home, he will give up.”

As to the figures, businesses and stores burglaries are also down overall, especially for the more obvious targets: service stations, medical offices, and jewelry stores. There as well, better preventive techniques played an important part. As far as public services and administrative buildings, they were less affected because they have less cash on hand, use computerized payment systems, and maintain fewer blank documents.

Cars defend themselves. Overall, crimes against automobiles are lower: car theft dropped 25.8% since 2008, with 11,725 cases recorded in 2012, the lowest level since the turn of the century. As compared to 2011, car and home jacking (a home invasion whose purpose is to steal a car) are also lower (-7.3% and -5%). This security improvement is mostly due to better technology built into cars. It should be noted that theft from cars has dropped 17.5% since 2008, with one exception: theft of sophisticated steering wheels, which has increased.

Electronic extortion. If armed robbery is significantly lower (-6.8% since 2008 and -10.8% compared to 2011), unarmed violent robbery…is exploding: +31.8% between 2008 and 2012. This paradox can be explained by the rapid growth of “extortion”: no fewer than 4,807 extortions were reported in 2012. It’s not about café owners who get their “meters read” by the eastern European mafia, but, more prosaically, a phenomenal increase in electronic sabotage (+8.552% (!) since 2008). These crimes include a large number of ransom attempts on information systems: “ransomware.” The explanation of these 4,807 acts of extortion: the number is that high because 4,326 acts of electronic sabotage were reported in 2012.

Pickpocketing. More than 42,000 incidents of pickpocketing were recorded in 2012 – an increase of 38.4% over five years. Those who report these statistics discreetly note, “on the ground the idea is that these are usually committed by minors and groups of Romanians and Bulgarians.” The activity of these groups is not the only explanation: “Between 2008 and 2012, food theft grew by 12%, while theft of food from market stalls grew by 30%,” notes Jean-Marie Brabant, who refuses to endorse Javert’s approach. The economic crisis is hitting the poor, and there’s a bit of Valjean in these thefts.

Fewer assaults. Finally, simple assault is lower compared to 2008 (-4.4%), but, remarkably, domestic violence (at least violence that is reported) dropped significantly since 2008 (78%). This drop might be attributable to greater political emphasis since 2006.

ALAIN LALLEMAND

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