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Tbilisi getting safer, officials say

By Eka Gogisvanidze
Friday, February 22
Tbilisi’s crime rate in 2007 was down 18 percent on 2006 figures, according to statistics released by the Prosecutor General’s Office. Serious crimes witnessed the most dramatic change, decreasing 60 percent last year.

Tbilisi resident Julie Lomadze says the difference on the capital’s streets is easy to see. “Two years ago I was attacked in the street by a man who stole my handbag,” she told the Messenger. “These past few years it was really dangerous to go out late, but now I feel safer. The decrease in crime is noticeable.”

Foreigners continue to be relatively unaffected by crime in the capital, according to Shota Utiashvili, the head of a government analysis department.

“There were just a few cases of burglary, theft or robbery against the foreigners, especially the stealing of mobile phones, but we have no any serious cases such as murder or kidnapping,” Utiashvili says.

A substantial improvement was also seen in the number of cases solved last year, which was up by ten percent on the 2006 figure.

2007 saw half the number of violent carjackings in 2006, a drop from 454 cases to 222, while burglary and robbery decreased similar amounts.

Drug-related offences in 2007 were triple the number recorded in 2006, which officials credit to the government’s aggressive stance on drugs last year.

However, official figures show that approximately the same proportion of cases—around 80 percent—were solved in both 2006 and 2007.

A dramatic rise continues in Georgia’s prison population, with data from the Ministry of Justice revealing it has tripled since 2005, a trend that a recent Human Rights Watch (HRW) report underlined as cause for concern.

While the HRW report welcomed a presidential pardon that reduced the raw number of inmates last year, as well as the opening of a new prison in Tbilisi that relieved some overcrowding at the city’s Prison No. 5, it called on the government to seek alternatives to pre-trial detention and develop probation and parole systems in order to reduce the country’s prison population.