VITEBSK, 1 March (BelTA) – In 2020, Vitebsk Oblast reported a nearly 9% fall in criminal offenses registered with the criminal investigation office and a 2.7-time increase in cybercrimes, Andrei Lyubimov, Head of the Vitebsk Oblast Police Department, told a press conference, BelTA informs.
Speaking about the crime rate in Vitebsk Oblast in 2020, Andrei Lyubimov noted that the number of crimes registered by the criminal investigation office dropped by almost 9%. Those were murders, intentional grievous bodily harm, robberies and thefts. “There were fewer crimes involving minors and persons with a criminal record. The same pertains to crimes committed in public places and by persons who were under the influence of alcohol. All in all, the number of registered crimes committed by persons with a criminal record and minors shrank by a third. Since the beginning of 2021, the number of crimes registered by the criminal investigation office, including grave and especially grave crimes, has dropped by more than 34% year-on-year,” Andrei Lyubimov informed.
In 2020, the number of cybercrimes rose 2.7 times compared to 2019; more than 3,000 cybercrimes were registered. Over 90% of them involved stealing money using computer technology. Cybercriminals are using increasingly sophisticated techniques and methods. “A while ago ATM card skimming and PIN capturing were very common (when a skimming device is ‘piggy-backed' onto the card reader slot), however now virtual cybercriminals are actively harnessing the power of the Internet. In 2020, criminals increased attack on online shoppers using delivery phishing scams. In an advance fee scheme, customers were asked for advance payment and were tricked into clicking on phishing links resembling genuine websites requesting financial information. Belarusians also received calls from scam bank callers who said that they were investigating fraudulent activity on people's accounts and asked people to disclose their bank details, such as card number and CVV code,” Andrei Lyubimov said.
To prevent cybercrimes, law enforcement personnel of Vitebsk Oblast held awareness raising events in educational institutions, enterprises and organizations. “An educational and awareness raising Telegram channel ‘Digital Literacy' (t.me/cifgram) was launched to update people on new scams and to urge them to be careful and vigilant in the Internet and over the phone. I would like to remind that bank employees are not entitled to making any calls to their clients. All controversial issues are addressed exclusively in person at the nearest bank office. Do not fall victim to these scams,” Andrei Lyubimov said.
He also added that it is difficult to solve such crimes because most often the stolen money goes abroad. As a rule, criminals are located outside the Republic of Belarus and use encrypted or anonymous Internet technologies. It is often extremely challenging to track their location. Therefore, vigilance is the only way to keep your money safe. “In January-February alone, more than 440 cybercrimes were registered in Vitebsk Oblast,” Andrei Lyubimov informed.
He went on saying that the year 2020 saw a decrease in recidivism rates. This is largely attributed to organizational strategies of the police. “Last year, more than 600 convicts released from the institutions of the penitentiary system were employed. Of these, 68 persons were assisted with recovering their documents and 41 people were placed in social adaptation centers. In general, in 2020, recidivism rates shrank by 14% compared to 2019”, Andrei Lyubimov said.
He added that these persons received assistance with accommodation and work, as well as medical care.
Andrei Lyubimov also noted that in 2020 Vitebsk Oblast reported a nearly 28% drop in the number of drug trafficking crimes. “One of the reasons was the closure of borders by the Russian Federation. In 2020, 23 kg of narcotic drugs, psychotropic substances and their precursors, as well as more than 26 kg of smokeless tobacco - nasvay were withdrawn from circulation. Marijuana accounted for more than 62% of the above-mentioned drugs or 14.8 kg. Four online stores engaged in drug trafficking were shut down. Two channels supplying narcotic drugs, psychotropic substances from Russia were eliminated,” he added.
In 2021, law enforcement of Vitebsk Oblast will expand their crackdown on online stores selling drugs. In January-February 2021, ten drug dealers were identified, of whom five were wholesale dealers of online stores. Also, operatives found a room adapted for growing narcotic plants, detected five incidents of illegal movement of narcotic drugs, psychotropic substances or their precursors or analogues across the state border of Belarus.