Luckily I've collected some Hungarian statistical yearbooks over the years and therefore have access to official historical crime statistics. When Tibor Navracsics, in the wake of the Veszprém murder, announced that this government is utterly incapable of keeping order, that people live in fear, that crime statistics are climbing dramatically, I was able to check his statistical claim. As usual, not a word of Navracsics's dire picture of the Hungarian situation is true.
Let's start with the happy 1960s and 1970s. During these decades the number of reported attacks against life and property was low. In 1965 there were only 121,161 cases, and a large percentage of these (80.4%) were solved by the police. Ten years later the situation didn't change much: about the same number of cases though only 78.9% of them were solved. In 1985 there was a noticeable jump: 165,816 reported cases and the police were able to solve only 68.2%. Three years later, in 1988, the number went up again to 185,344 and the percentage of crimes solved dropped again. From here on there was a steep rise in the crime rate while the percentage solved dropped to as low as 42.6% in 1994. In 1995 the number of cases was up to 502,0366. That was pretty much the situation in 1998 when the Orbán government was formed (1998: 600,621; 1999: 505,716). Nowadays the number is around 400,000, considerably lower than ten years earlier but still twice as much as in 1988. The big improvement is in the number of murders or attempted murders. While in 1994 there were 439 deaths and 514 in both 1997 and 1999, by 2003 the number was down to 228, in 2004 209, in 2005 164, and in 2007 154. By the way, the Hungarian trend in the total number of offenses follows the all-European Union trend. See graph:
I found a publication of the Központi Statisztikai Hivatal (Central Statistical Office) published in November 2008 (interestingly in Miskolc) that gives some details about known crimes and their perpetrators. In Hungary there are no available statistics on national origin. Therefore we don't know, for instance, how many of the criminals were Gypsies. There are, however, statistics on the number of crimes broken down by region, by the age of the perpetrators, and by their educational attainment.
When it comes to regions, the lowest crime rate can be found in Central Hungary, closely followed by Southern and Western Transdanubia. The worst parts are the poorest regions: Northern Hungary and the North Great Plains. Miskolc, by the way, is situated in the Northern Hungarian region. Juveniles' share in criminal activities is much higher than their share in the population as whole and again juvenile crime is highest in the north-east parts of the country. The percentage of perpetrators with eight grades or under is very high among juveniles (it's of course possible that some of them are young enough to still be in school). Again, one doesn't know the ethnic composition of this group but one suspects that the number of Gypsies is high because they are the ones who are grossly undereducated.
When it comes to adult perpetrators the educational attainment is also very low. Again, the worst region is the Northern Great Plains where 1.3% cannot read or write and 68.4% finished only eight grades. Nationally, one in four crimes is committed under the influence of alcohol.
In 2007 24,669 persons were sentenced but only 30% of these actually served any time. The rest received suspended sentences. Here is the breakdown. As one can see, these sentences are mild, especially by American standards. Some people argue that these sentences are too lenient and that the punishments should be more severe. Then, they argue, the criminals would think twice before attempting armed robbery and the like. Others claim that severe punishment is no deterrent and they bring up the example of countries, including the United States, where severe sentences are meted out for crimes that just aren't that serious. I am unable to take sides simply because I don't know enough about the subject.
One thing is becoming clear as far as the Veszprém murder is concerned. The perpetrators were no poor Gypsies living in some God-forsaken village in a hut but well off people living the lives of criminals. It is very possible that they committed more crimes against their fellow Gypsies than against anybody else. A few hours after I wrote my last blog I learned that actually there were three suspects. Two of them were caught by the evening close to Graz, Austria. One of them, Sándor Raffael, is suspected of the actual murder of Marian Cuzma. Iván Sztojka whose picture could be found on www.iwiw.hu is still at large. The police are offering one million forints to anyone who can provide reliable information on his whereabouts.