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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

'Elektrichka' Plagued by Crime

For people using the electric trains that bring millions of passengers to Moscow, getting to the capital has become increasingly difficult and dangerous.

Police, who have carried out 10 raids on railroad stations and trains so far this year to combat vandalism, say crime and hooliganism on trains are escalating.

Numerous broken windows, torn-up seats, and filthy train cars attest to the vandalism.

Viktor Biryukov, head of Moscow Railroad's locomotive service, said last week that during the first 11 months of 1993, the railroad suffered the following losses:

o23 burned train cars;

omore than 20, 000 vandalized seats with another 5, 000 stolen;

oabout 8, 000 missing heaters;

omore than 4, 500 stolen windows, including the frames, and more than 1, 000 stolen luggage shelves.

Biryukov said extensive vandalism has cost the railroad 2. 1 billion rubles (about $1. 75 million) so far this year.

As wealthy Russians prefer to settle in more prestigious city apartments or drive to and from the city, elektrichki or commuter trains are ridden mostly by poorer people.

Some of the 3 million daily riders, about a third of the number who take Moscow's metro every day, seem to have adopted the attitude the train cars can provide many useful household items.

"Anything that can be dismantled and taken is used or sold", Biryukov said. For instance, artificial leather upholstery is used on front doors, windows are useful for greenhouses, heaters (up to 15 in each car) can be easily converted to warm a living room and seat benches can be used as furniture, he said.

"On top of that, drunks and hooligans just destroy anything they can", Biryukov said. He added that 60 percent of the train cars have been used beyond the average lifespan of 28 years, but the railroad cannot afford to replace them.

"I would prefer not to take commuter trains at all but what choice do I have? " said Yury Bliskov, 59, a mason who lives in Shkolny village near Golitsyno and works in Moscow. "I often see drunk youths break glass, slash seat upholstery, and break things right in front of other passengers, but they are too scared to intercept".

Last Thursday an elderly woman was found brutally murdered in a train at the Kursky railway station, police said.

As trains move fast and stop at each station for a few minutes, it is very easy for criminals and hooligans to escape, said Vladimir Kazakov, acting head of the Moscow Railroad police department, adding that most crimes are committed at night or early morning.

The Moscow railroad system has 320 trains with about 4, 000 cars which execute 5, 000 routes daily. A total of about 3, 000 police and OMON forces monitor the entire network that stretches from Belgorod on the Ukraine border about 600 kilometers south of Moscow to the Belorussian town of Brest some 1, 000 kilometers southwest to Smolensk about 400 kilometers west of Moscow.

As a result, police say they are only able to monitor a small percentage of the trains.

About 300 criminal cases on commuter trains are currently under investigation, Kazakov said, noting that some 33 percent of them are violent robberies.