Editorial: police passivity leads to loss of trust


PHOTO: Marko Saarm / Sakala

While explaining police decision not to investigate theft of a mobile phone,  a vital fact was recently revealed by Northern Prefecture criminal bureau chief Priit Pärkna: police would rather not deal with minor thievery, as otherwise there would be no time, money and people for solving the more serious crimes. To the point, to a degree – with resources restricted, choices need to be made... rationally speaking.

Even so, a person just deprived of his phone, purse or bike, will not take the rational approach. His personal space (pocket, staircase etc) has just been intruded; by evil intent of another person, he has very unjustly been left without his possessions.

(And: enough of the talk of the need to better keep one’s bikes and phones – there being cases of people having two bicycles stolen in one summer, both from locked staircases and super-securely fastened.)  In a situation like this, one wishes somebody would protect him, catch the thief, restore what was lost.

The talk of police dealing with weightier crimes comes as no comfort. Faith in security and justice has started to waiver. Statistically, bike and phone losses are the majority. Statistically, those with sense of security shattered are the majority.

And: statistically, petty thieves are the most numerous. Should we speak of thieving careers, that’s where these begin: shop lifting, pocket picking, bike stealing. At the very start of the career, getting caught may lead to deep repentance and changed ways. With police ignoring the issue, there is no fear of consequences. Easy money, as they say... risk being minimal.

It is especially weird as we combine loss of security and audacity of thieves with the technological options. The stolen phones and computers not only revealing the whereabouts of the thieves, but – occasionally – computers set up to load photos into Internet know exactly what the thief looks like. If the police will not tackle the issue, it is hard to resist the idea to investigate thinks on one’s own. As social media reveals, there are cases of thieves getting caught that way.

Even so, it is somewhat dangerous if citizens up and assume all police functions. Neighbourhood watch being one thing; however, should a local surveillance unit be created, the next step would perhaps be local penal units – think impromptu jailhouses. Certain functions in a society should still be left to state alone.

For we all, even the criminals, are under protection of the law. All things related to surveillance, punishment, loss of freedom, may only be carried out lawfully. Should law be violated, a thief might sue the owner and emerge victorious. That would have nothing to do with justice. That would be the law.

There are tasks only the state can handle. One being dealing with criminals. Who wants kangaroo courts?