The number of crimes reported to police rose by nearly 20 percent across the country last year, National Police Commissioner General Neth Savoeun said yesterday.
Speaking at a ceremony marking the 65th anniversary of the formation of the National Police in Phnom Penh yesterday, Gen Savoeun said that the number of criminal offenses recorded by police spiked 19.96 percent in 2009 over the previous year.
Gen Savoeun said 3,456 criminal offenses were recorded in total across the country last year and that from the 2,330 cases pursued by police, 3,432 suspects were arrested and sent through the court system.
Police recorded 289 drug crimes and 128 cases of human trafficking during 2009, Gen Savoeun added.
The commissioner said that the number of rapes and murders increased nearly 3 percent last year, while robbery cases dropped nearly 12 percent.
Despite the jump in crime, Gen Savoeun said police had improved their performance across the country.
“Security and order have been strengthened at all points across the country,” he said.
However, the number of offenses recorded by Cambodian police continues to be extremely low when compared to developed countries.
Last year in New Zealand, a country which is generally considered safe and has less than a third of Cambodia’s population, police recorded 451,405 criminal offences, according to the New Zealand police.
Sok Sam Oeun, executive director of the Cambodian Defenders Project, said yesterday that it was not helpful to compare Cambodia’s crime figures against other countries.
“We do not know how [Cambodian police] record criminal offenses, so the figures should be compared to the previous year, not other countries,” Mr Sam Oeun said, adding that a major factor that comes into play when victims of crime consider whether to make a report was how much they could trust the police.
“If the number of crimes police are taking action on increases, then their performance can be seen to be increasing,” he said.
Chan Soveth, chief monitor for the human rights organization Adhoc, said he did not believe that the figures released by the police commissioner yesterday were 100 percent accurate. Many crimes are not recorded by police, Mr Soveth said, because victims make deals with perpetrators even though by law out-of-court payments should not end criminal prosecutions.
“There were…cases that were resolved outside of the judicial system,” Mr Soveth said, adding that some of those cases included murder or rape.
Lieutenant General Khieu Sopheak, spokesman for the Interior Ministry, said the police figures were accurate as they were tabled using data from every police office in Cambodia.
“These are accurate and acceptable statistics,” Lt Gen Sopheak said.
Asked why there were far fewer crimes reported in Cambodia compared to other countries, Lt Gen Sopheak said, “Cambodia is not as bad as other countries.”
Prime Minister Hun Sen, who presided over the police ceremony yesterday, called on police and local communities to work together to fight crime in their local villages and communes.
“We want to strengthen security in villages and communes,” Mr Hun Sen said. “If each village has no gangsters and robberies, it means the whole nation has security.”
“We still have problems with an increased [number] of gangsters who create insecurity, armed robbery and rape. This is an issue that we need to work on together,” the prime minister added.