Pay of €1,000 a month not «police magnet» enough

Risto Berendson
, reporter
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Photo: Mihkel Maripuu / Postimees

In the interview underneath, Police and Border Guard Board Northern Prefecture prefect Kristian Jaani shares about shortcomings in fighting home violence and why pawn shops should ban cash.

The new year means extra burden on patrolling policemen who, now that criminalisation level rose to €200, need to seal shop-lifting decisions as most of that now comes under minor fraud category. Meanwhile, in a city of the size of Tallinn, spots that beg prompt intervention by cops abound.

For police, it makes no difference if we have to do with a crime or misdemeanour; we still have to react as before. Of course, if the thief is already caught and in security’s grasp at the store, the police needs not speed there blinkers on. If a minor theft has been committed and all circumstances clear, the patrol completes all the other more important calls and thereafter shows up at the scene where the offence may be formalised by expedited procedure.

Thus, the patrols got added paperwork?

Yes, maybe there will now be more of such incidents that patrol needs to settle on the spot, but that’s nothing terrible. What counts is that the procedure is simpler.

For years, law and order police has laboured in the minus; due to those leaving, there’s not enough staff to fill current posts. Has the situation been changed by the higher salary available starting February?

This very day, I’d take at least 15 more people for street patrols, immediately.

How are you plugging the hole?

An option is to make additional shifts, but what really matters is a flexible schedule. The sum total of patrols in the Northern Prefecture has increased by over three patrols for 24 hours, year on year. But that’s because they are doing additional work. The ideal, of course, would be filling the vacancies. 

In Tallinn, a patrol policeman straight from school will be receiving about €1,000 net with extras. For a beginner, rather a motivating pay.

Absolutely.

But – no waiting line at the door?

Alas, no. This is our greatest problem. To us, new people come once a year from Academy of Security Sciences – that’s the good scenario. Some two thousand will graduate and come to works with us. From the streets, there’s no applications.

Haven’t there been any policemen who, while away building in Finland and living half the wages away while separated from the family, have wanted to come back?

There are the rare cases, but nothing much to talk about.

The Tallinn city government is planning to ban alcohol sales on Sundays and has addressed the nine surrounding communes with plea to follow suit. Already, the opinions are being voiced that this is restriction of business freedoms. What do the police say?

Here, I have a clear stand: the more difficult to access alcohol, the better. There’s nothing here to discuss really. The statistics say anyone in Estonia can obtain alcohol from less than a hundred meter distance. In Tallinn, of course, it is worse yet. However, if the communes around Tallinn will not hop aboard, we’ll have all kinds of black business on our hands. Therefore, it would be good if the nearby communes would go along. Actually, the entire Estonia could have it like that. Nothing bad would come out of that.

Talking about alcohol: last year, you run into problems with illegal vodka tourists from Sweden.

They aren’t illegal people. These are the people who are applying for asylum in Sweden, they are there absolutely legally, but are not allowed to leave the country. They are travelling around Schengen – the automatic registrations in ports are very comfortable for that – and we need to pick these people out in the port. They are coming here to buy, but they are not supposed to do that. Yes, this is a kind of a trend right now. But finding these people is a task of ours guarding the internal border.

In Moscow, a month ago, an operation was launched to cleanse the capital from illegal habitants. When all Uzbeks, the Kirghiz and other fraternal nations are squeezed out of the Russian capital, they’ll be glancing towards St Petersburg, possibly Riga and Tallinn. 

This has been the tendency with earlier such raids in Moscow. They end up at our Eastern border and are seeking a new outlet. Thankfully, they are not many and they are already caught at external border.

A priority for the police is dealing with domestic violence where calls are under zero tolerance – you react to all cases. The policemen can’t endlessly react to calls, there has to be a solution somehow.

Increasingly, people are letting us know of such cases. Awareness has improved. In every 24 hours, Northern Prefecture receives an average of nine notices of domestic violence. Our priority is to quickly liquidate the threat – freeze the situation. That is followed by proceeding the offence and here, indeed, we run into the question: what to do that such incidents would decrease? In the experience of the rest of the world, all kinds of various support groups have been created through which it is attempted to cure this problem in society. Punishing and jailing people is no solution as when set at liberty the person is probably as «sick» as he was when sent behind bars. There is a very high probability that the domestic violence will continue. Here, the only approach is prevention, where the violent one gets psychological help. In our case, this aspect has taken the back seat somewhat; we have lots of support programs for the victims, but when it comes to the other party we often only think of punishment. But that is no solution.

So no light at the end of the tunnel?

Here, district constables play a very large role, those who are supposed to carry out follow-up checks consistently. Communicating with the parties. And we do carry out lots of follow-up checks as related to domestic violence. Here, the constable’s role is, for instance, involving the local government.

What, then, will a constable need to do? When she knows the man in neighbouring village has payday tomorrow, will she go and lecture him not to drink, as this will traditionally lead to beating his wife?

Why not. But domestic violence isn’t always the husband-wife issue. There are lots of cases where a father and a son live together, on the pension payment day they will get drunk together and end up fighting. According to our analysis, the average domestic-violent one is a middle-aged jobless man, often drunk. So, if we’d manage to cut the alcohol problem, home violence would go down also.

Let’s talk about criminal police. For the second year, drug police are organising street operations to catch dealers. Will this continue?

Certainly. We had a 24 percent rise in drug crimes and this is purely reflecting drug police works, as these are hidden crimes. These need to be searched out. When looking at the cases where drugs were passed on to people under 18 years of age, the growth was about 145 percent, by 29 cases. This is purely the labour of our street-police group. Indirectly, due to their efforts, crimes against property are in a steep decline. I mean thefts in apartments and of vehicles and metal.

But is there the danger that you are emphasising drug police at the expense of other functions?  Yes, there are almost no car thefts and you decide to take people from there and use then in drug police. But one day we will discover that the Lithuanian car thieves are therefore back in Estonia.

We have to be flexible. If an area experiences a spike, extra resources need to be sent there, fast, from within the establishment.

Last year, there were many cases with buyer-ups of stolen goods. This is an effective way to ensure that thefts diminish. On the other hand, police made raids to pawn shops as potential marketing spots for stolen stuff. There’s been this idea to ban pawn shops from accepting payments by cash.

This is an excellent idea. I know the initial reaction is «not possible», «restricting business freedom» etc. But they did it in metal buy up. Currently, they aren’t allowed to deal in cash there and the metal thefts are down multiple times. Why not follow suit at pawn shops. When I take my TV into pawn shop, they may transfer me the money the very same day, to my bank account. To a law-abiding one, what would be wrong with that? Broadly speaking, we have thieves now also making use of the pawn shops.

Then we’d be able to see that, over a year, the drug addict Risto has pawned 15 bicycles. As it is highly unlikely that he has 15 bikes at home, it would be easier to detect crimes.

Yes. This will create a situation where this method of realising stolen stuff will totally disappear. The pawn shops will have mostly law-abiding people as their customers. The thieves would quickly draw away. As it stands, lots of stolen stuff keeps going to pawn shops. A fast deal with cash… Piece of cake.

Last year, Northern Prefecture failed to fulfil its criminal income goals.

The goals need to be high and leave you feeling a bit bad. The goals cannot be low. Last year, we discovered criminal income of about €50,000; the goal was close to three millions. But there’s no need to overemphasise that. What matters more is to view police operations in said field. The criminal cases where assets were confiscated or criminal income discovered were much more in number than before. But sure, of course we could have done better yet. Criminals need to be investigated into poverty. If they have criminal income, they need to lose it. It starts with the smallest details. That every investigator would find ways how to find these assets and obtain them.

A bunch of thieved was left without the footwear found in their homes ...

That’s the way to do it.

Finally, a few words about traffic safety. The picture’s getting better, the casualties are down.

Yes. Last year, we had 70,000 more drivers exhale in alcohol tests than the year before. The percentage of drunk drivers involved in accidents with human casualties declined, which is very good.

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