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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

City Targets Crime on Foreigners

Moscow's police chief said Wednesday that protecting foreigners from a growing crime wave is one of the capital's highest security priorities.

"There has been a lot of talk that businessmen and also tourists are afraid of coming because their security is not assured here in Russia and Moscow", said Vladimir Pankratov at a news conference. "Therefore, we're strengthening the country's authority to fight crime against foreigners".

Pankratov also said the city's other top police priorities are: reducing street crime, cracking down on auto thefts and assaults and strengthening police discipline by, for example, firing those who drink on the job.

Crime against Russia's growing foreign community has doubled over the past few years, with over 7, 000 victimized so far this year alone, according to Interior Ministry statistics. Criminals often target foreigners on the street and at home for their comparatively greater wealth, and many of the victims have been assaulted.

A special police division is in charge of overseeing the investigation of crimes against foreigners, and it has been expanded this year, Pankratov said. He gave no further details about the division.

Police have also stepped up contacts with the Foreign Ministry and various embassies to exchange ideas. Embassy security has been improved, he added.

As an example of police efforts to help provide security, Pankratov cited the U. S. Embassy's peaceful Independence Day celebration which attracted about 2, 000 guests.

"The embassy has found that the cooperation of the Moscow police has been good", said U. S. embassy spokesman Mike McClennan. "We're very satisfied with their cooperation across the board".

Some foreigners say, however, that Moscow's police often are not there to help when they need it.

One place where foreigners say that police help is sorely lacking is Sheremetyevo-II Airport where luggage is often pilfered or outright stolen. The chief of police at Sheremetyevo has called the airport a "gold mine" for thieves, which affects foreigners first and foremost.

Yildirim Duman, station manager for Turkish Airlines, said that while police response was good in the city, at the airport it was sometimes non-existent.

Moscow's top cop did not mention airport baggage thefts, but he did criticize tourist firms for not meeting visitors at the airport and taking other measures to ensure their security.

"Some firms have set up a real feeding trough for themselves; they provide tourist visas for their guests and then do not look out for their visitors", he said, adding that police would monitor these firms more closely in the future.

Last week, Russia's Interior Minister Viktor Yerin said that although foreigners often talk about the dangers of the crime situation in Russia, they are frequently targeted because of their own carelessness.

Even if Pankratov succeeds, in stepping up security for foreigners, the end of KGB surveillance and other Soviet-era controls, such as requiring foreigners to live in special areas, mean that the level of police protection of just a few years ago is unlikely to return, police officials say.

"Two years ago they were almost everywhere", said one Western diplomat. "Now there are less police on the street so they will be looking less after you".