Editorial: how to restore sense of security in society?

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Photo: lawenforcementtoday.com

Last week, Estonia was in shock by the brutal beating in Tartu of a father under the very eyes of his small son, having reprimanded young guys for kicking over a trash can. By today, we know of the lengthy punishment register of the offenders. 

Thankfully, the worst was avoided and the victim is recovering. Just after Christmas, last year, a man was beaten to his death in central Tartu. Unavoidably, such incidents shake the feeling of security in society – though statistics point to such crimes in decline these past years.

Even so, like beatings in public limelight are numerous, recently. Most comparable to this here, we recall the 2007 incident in Pärnu when an entrepreneur from Valga, having been walking with family near a Pärnu nightclub and telling a gang of youth not to drive on the pavement, got beaten up. Then, the case evolved into years of court cases and at long last the lads got jailed... for  10–11 months.

As was judged too lenient both by victim and a large part of society.

Even with the USA in mind, a society does expect penalties more severe for crimes, as in nations with direct democracy practiced in its various forms, punishments tend to be tougher.  

As it often happens, the commoner is tuned to be stricter towards criminals than the judge, and thus the latter trigger indignation by contradicting the public sense of justice. That, at least, is what one gathers from related studies ordered by justice ministry.

Today, courts cannot judge based on the voice of the people, neither can they for that reason alter the penal code.

Even so, as also noted by University of Tartu professor Jaan Ginter, other measures may be applied to provide better security. According to Mr Ginter, to such incidents the police needs to react more swiftly.

Also, he has advised increased practice to detain the crooks even with insufficient legal basis. This is the order of the day in various nations and could be considered with fight against physical abuse, including domestic violence here as well.

In criminology, serial crimes have been studied for over a century, and the main conclusion is that to reshape recidivists, their negative personal characteristics need to be maximally neutralised and replaced with what’s positive.

This is a complex process, but in light of what happened in Tartu, we would need to review the attitude towards hardened  offenders walking about with the air of impunity. In penal policy, there are the alternatives to prisons such as certain banc and restrictions, helping to avoid repeat crimes.