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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Foreigners: Fighting Back Against Moscow Crime

Whenever he looks at the scars on his hand and chest, Michael Morgenstern remembers the three thugs who forced their way into his Moscow apartment one morning last November and stabbed and robbed him.


Though he has recovered from the physical and emotional trauma of the incident, Morgenstern isn't taking any more chances. He hired a driver who accompanies him to and from his car. He bought an alarm system for his apartment. and he became the proud owner of a Siberian dog.


Morgenstern, who has a real estate firm here with another American and a Russian, is among the growing number Moscow residents who are taking increased measures to protect themselves against crime.


"We have twice as many customers now as we did last June", said Mikhail Polyakov, manager of the InterMarket Home Security Store on Ulitsa Mitskevicha. The increased demand, in fact, prompted the German-Russian joint venture to open a second store just off Ulitsa Tverskaya a few months ago.


According to Itar-Tass, Russia's crime rate increased by 30 percent last year. Violent crimes and incidents involving firearms increased by 100 percent. Burglaries involving foreigners increased by five times last year, according to police statistics.


Polyakov said his customers, of whom about 20 percent are foreigners, spend an average of $200 on locks, home or office alarm systems and automobile security devices. Though most buy the products as preventative measures, some come after falling victim to crime, he said.


Such was the case of a Yugoslavian firm that bought a new safe and security system after robbers torched the old safe in the office on Kutuzovsky Prospekt and stole $30, 000, Polyakov said.


Most of his foreign customers are individuals who are concerned about securing their cars and apartments. The most popular item is a German-made $49 hardened-steel automobile bar lock, he said.


"We have sold about 2, 000 of these in the past year", Polyakov said. The demand is not surprising, in view of the 50 to 60 vehicles that are stolen per day in Moscow, according to police statistics.


Another top seller is an $840 door phone audio-video system with a infrared camera that allows one to survey a visitor, even in a dark entryway.


Steel doors are also popular, according to Andrei Kulinov, president of Cezam Group, an American-Russian company that makes six types of doors with special electronic locks.


Last month the company sold 200 custom-ordered doors, which cost Russians 100, 000 rubles and foreigners $400, including locks and installation, he said.


Foreign businesses go all-out for security, said Bjorn Berge, group-project manager of Group 4, which recently signed a partnership with Alex Security Limited of Russia. Valentin Kosyekov, president of Alex, said that about 20 percent of the firm's clients are foreigners, mostly joint-venture companies, but also a few individuals.


"In the past three months, the number of foreigners requesting assistance has increased", Kosyekov said. The increase, Kosyekov and Berge said, is due to the philosophy of Western businesses to make security a high priority.


Foreigners are engaging Alex for bodyguard service, which starts at about $7 per hour, guard services of offices, installation of electronic surveillance systems and security training. The biggest contract provides $200, 000 of security measures, he said.


"One of the biggest fears now of businesses is that organized crime will penetrate their companies", Berge said. "It is coming up more and more now in people's minds because of the organized crime activities here".