At the same time, the year registered a spike in cases involving controlled substances

RBP: Crime rate in the country dropped by 15.6 percent in 2014 as compared to the previous year, police officials said in a press conference, yesterday.

However, police records also showed a 30 percent increase in cases involving possession of controlled substances, and a 10 percent increase of its illegal transaction.  There were 337 cases of possession of controlled substances, and 33 of its illegal transaction last year, compared to 259 and 30 respectively in 2013.

There was also a 12 percent increase in cases involving an offence against the Ku-Sung-Thukten or statues, scriptures, and lhakhangs.  There were 233 cases last year.

The year saw a 63 percent decrease in homicides in 2014.  There were seven homicides recorded last year, as compared to 19 the previous year.  There was a 16 percent reduction in rape incidents reported to the police, to  43 cases last year from 51 in 2013.

The top three crimes of battery (521 cases), larceny (393), and burglary (296) also saw significant reductions.  There were 17 percent fewer cases of battery in 2014, 32 percent fewer cases of larceny, and 37 percent fewer of burglary.

In total, there were 2,775 crime incidents recorded by the police last year, 513 less than in 2013.

Thimphu recorded the most crime with 891 cases, 423 fewer than in 2013.  This was followed by Chukha with 389 cases and Paro with 182.  Figures indicated a 32 percent drop in crime in Thimphu, and an almost nine percent drop in Paro, while in Chukha there was no significant change.

It was pointed out that there has been a downward trend in Thimphu’s crime contribution to the overall crime rate.  The city’s contribution was 32 percent last year, down from 65 percent in 2011.

The most significant drops in crime rate were recorded in Trashiyangtse (38 percent), and Gasa and Wangdue with 36 percent each.  But numerically, Wangdue saw the largest drop from 236 cases in 2013 to 152 last year.

Seven dzongkhags saw an increase in crime.  Pemagatshel and Lhuentse both recorded a 60 percent increase in crime, followed by Zhemgang with 44 percent.

Police chief, brigadier Kipchu Namgyel, attributed the drop in crime to several factors.  He said that partnerships between the police and the public, such as the Police Youth Partnership Program and Friends of Police (FoP), a sensitisation effort that covered 70 schools, including the parents of students, and road shows on domestic violence, were contributing factors.

The establishment of mobile community police, made up of citizens (FoP) in 55 gewogs so far, and of community police centres had also led to the reduction in crime, he pointed out.

The police chief also attributed the decrease in crime to the introduction and practice of a competition between the various police divisions and stations to see who can reduce crime the most.  The competition is into its third year.

Asked whether the competition may serve as an incentive for police divisions to under report crime and thereby render statistics inaccurate, police officials said the system of registering crime cannot be tampered with, and it would carry an inherent risk for the police officer, who chooses not to register a crime.

Additional police chief, colonel Chimmi Dorji, said that, as soon as a case was reported to a police station, it had to be entered into a general diary by the policeman on duty.  That entry was then updated in real-time to a database maintained by the crime branch in Thimphu, according to colonel Chimmi.

When results for the competition are being compiled, data maintained by the crime branch must tally with the respective division or station’s data. “So that’s some sort of a check and balance to ensure that cases aren’t hidden or not put on record,” colonel Chimmi said.

Crime branch superintendent, colonel Thinlay Drukla, added that there was also a risk to the officer, who chose not to register a crime, as there was always the possibility of the case reemerging later.

Brigadier Kipchu Namgyel explained that there were exceptions, such as in cases where both parties were willing to compromise, and the injury was not severe, such as in a motor vehicle accident, or even an assault or battery case.

“But in no way can we compromise in rape, in no way can we compromise theft … once it’s registered, there’s no way out,” the police chief said.

Asked if records are also maintained on how many cases are solved or still ongoing, police officials said such statistics were maintained as the detection rate.

However, brigadier Kipchu Namgyel said that police were facing a major challenge when it came to forensic science. “We don’t have a forensic science laboratory,” he said, adding that evidence usually had to be sent to a third country, like India, where laboratories were already bogged down with evidence. “That takes ages,” he said.  Thailand, Sri Lanka, Germany, and Australia have also been used for forensic investigation.

The police chief said that the detection rate would be compiled, and further assessed and evaluated and published as a booklet at a later date.  The crime statistics publicised yesterday include only those that have been registered and sent to court.

As part of its efforts to further reduce crime, police are pursuing the establishment of more micro-level community policing.  Another concept currently being piloted in Gelephu is the “neighbourhood watch”, where FoP and community members look after their own localities.

Police are also looking into establishing a surveillance camera network in Thimphu.

By Gyalsten K Dorji