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Police plagued by cooked up complaints

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PHOTO: Tairo Lutter

11:30 pm, on September 8th. The place is Rahumäe Police Station, Tallinn. Daniil, a gymnasium student sits there with his mother, telling investigator-on-duty the terrifying tale of how two hours before he was attacked by two unknown crooks, in Lasnamäe, who hit him over the hear with a club, and robbed personal items: a Pepe Jeans coat, Puma footwear, Calvin Klein bag with Armani purse etc.

With robberies, especially so if minors are involved, it is important to catch the criminals hot on their trails. This time, however, the police was ever so slow to be moved by what the 11th grader was saying.

Because the police knew that Daniil (19) was lying. This was his second time at the police, during the day. At about 10 in the morning, he had been taken to Rahumäe high on LSD as a patrol caught him running around naked in the nature around Laulasmaa.

So, having lied about being robbed for fear of his mother, the lad on September 10th ended up as suspect in false testimony.

«In a year, we have over thirty cases like this,» said Northern prefecture criminal police chief Urmet Tambre. That’ll be about half of all such procedures initiated in Estonia this year – 70 as at beginning of November.

The naked Daniil incident is a curiosity of late. It is not traditional for the police to be notified of people streaking around without clothes on. That being the case in the morning of September 8th, the patrol headed out and found a  Volkswagen Sharan parker on Laulasmaa nature reserve with lots of clothes scattered all around. Nearby stood a young guy obviously high, jumping and waving hands, who said they took cannabis and LSD with friend Daniil and the latter freaked out, took off his clothes and ran into the woods.

Finding the naked Daniil was a piece of cake as his screams were heard loud and clear, in the quiet of the forest. The inadequate and at times aggressive drug users were taken to the police station to cool off, the lads being unable to even give a drug test.

Sobered up, Daniil headed home that night with no coat and shoes, beginning to fear: how do I tell mommy I lost my stuff in the woods due to drug use?

Having a head wound, the idea of a robbery was born. As Mother ordered him to go to police and write an application, driving him there, till the last moment the lad was fearful to own up to her.

It was only two days later, as the police was launching investigation regarding his own person, that Daniil begun to speak. As he admitted to what he had done, the decision by prosecutors was milder: on September 23rd, due to public interest, the criminal procedure was terminated. Daniil ended up with obligation to do community service for 60 hours during the next five months.

It’s not always that easy. «To understand it was a fake application, our investigators usually waste weeks of valuable working time,» said the criminal bureau head Urmet Tambre.

The tradition is to talk an ordinary theft into a tough robbery. Firstly: the people know that in such cases the police will actually do something. And then they have hopes to get their things back. Secondly, it may be for the purpose to trigger pity in people. The image of being violently robbed fits in perfectly.

Last year, the police encountered this incident where a lovesick guy stuck a knife in the area of his heart, invited the girlfriend who had recently walked out on him, and lied to her about a street robbery. When the lady called the police, it felt suspicious as the man’s clothes were not bloody.

«No robber will come and say take your shirt off before I stuck the knife in,» said Northern police investigator Hisko Vares. So the «victim» ended up under investigation himself.

Another fresh example from end of September: Emergency service got a phone call from a lad who claimed, sounding «like a lunatic» (quoting Urmet Tambre – R. B.), that he had just been robbed in a courtyard in Raua Street, threatened with a knife, his coat burned with a cigarette lighter, and €5 thus snatched away.

«Can you imagine what then happens?» asked Mr Tambre. «This is serious crime against a minor i.e. top emergency.» So what happens is that all police patrols available or engaged with smaller matters rush to the scene and start combing the neighbourhood.

Turned out, it wasn’t that bad: while smoking, the lad had accidentally burned a hole in his coat and to explain that to parents something had to be invented. So he improvised. Three weeks later, as the police had analysed the security videos in the neighbourhood and concluded it was far from robbery, the lad confessed his guilt. «But for us, the investigators wasted three valuable weeks,» said Mr Tambre.

The rule of thumb seems to be that about a fifth of all reports on thefts contain some false information. They either add items to the list of what was stolen, hoping to get compensated by insurance or a crook, or they «talk up» what happened.

As an example of that, a victim who fell asleep drunk on a park bench and had his stuff stolen will claim he was robbed. As the police finally reaches the criminal – the usual pickpocket – it feels wrong from the start. «We know from the times before that this thief is not actually violent,» said Mr Vares, the investigator.

The thief, once caught, confirms that and says he just took the things from the pockets of a sleeper. For the victim, however, this could serve a suspicion regarding false testimony. «As we ask why he cooked up the robbery, they say that then there will at least be a search happening,» said Mr Vares.

He related a story from a few months back when for weeks the police was toiling with an alleged enslavement. The lady said another woman held her bound for several days in a Tallinn apartment. Turned out, she had been there out of free will, injecting herself and was unable to return home being high. When she finally got out of it, she invented a reason for being away.

Mr Tambre said it was next to impossible for false statements to be accepted. «Broadly speaking, two months in a year our offence-against-persons department sits on false claims,» said Mr Tambre. «They might deal with real crimes.»

But on the other hand, the police has to check these cases out.

Fresh fake applications

  • On March 29th, Juri said he was robbed of a purse in a park with documents and €75. Thus saying, he hoped to get a new ID-card cheaper from the state.
  • On July 11th, Aleksandr announced he was stolen a bag with a Sony tablet and mobile phone Samsung Galaxy. He said that to get compensation out of insurance company. To that end, he even let an acquaintance issue a fake purchase receipt regarding the computer.
  • On October 9th, Evelin said she was stolen a laptop Dell Inspiron worth €250 in a tram. Actually, she forgot it there.
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