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Are Shrinking Prisons Growing Fear?

Written by Frank Klobucar, GORBI

21/10/2013 00:00 (179 Day 06:03 minutes ago)

The FINANCIAL -- Over the last year, the atmosphere of law and order has changed drastically in Georgia. 

 

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The new Prime Minister oversaw the release of thousands of prisoners, and commuted the sentences of even more.  While many of these releases were justified by calling them political imprisonment, many who were convicted of actual crimes, like robbery or assault, were released as well. 


There is no doubt that Georgia’s draconian punishments and lack of a fair judicial system grew the prison population greatly, but many argue that such summary releases will inevitably lead to an increase in crime. In fact, there have now been documented cases of relapsed criminals committing the very same crimes for which they were imprisoned. Surely this has had an effect on Georgians’ feelings of safety, right? Luckily we at GORBI have data from both before and after the amnesty bill passed, so we can check.


Georgian Opinion Research Business International, the Georgian member of Gallup International, conducted the third wave of the annual Crime and Security Survey in Georgia in 2012.  We polled 3000 Georgians nationwide, and asked them a wide variety of questions about victimization, security, and confidence in relevant institutions.  The survey revealed nearly the same picture that it had the year before: Georgia has incredibly low crime rates and Georgians feel very safe.  In a nationwide survey of 1000 people from June of this year, we included a few of the same questions to see if things are different.


As it happens, very little has changed in the minds of most Georgians.  People remain unworried about being personally affected by crime, and confidence in the police’s ability to protect them is high.

In both surveys we asked the question “[…]the last time you went out after dark in your area for whatever reason, did you stay away from certain streets or places, for reasons of safety, or to avoid certain people?”  The answer was a resounding “no,” in both years. Only 4% of our respondents in 2012 felt there was any place in their area that they should avoid, and the number is just as low this year.


Likewise, general confidence in the police remains high. We asked respondents “taking into account all the things the police in your area are expected to do, would you say they are doing a very good job, a good job, a bad job or a very bad job?”  The large majority said the police were very good or good at their jobs.  In fact, in both cases less than 2% of respondents said anything directly negative.  The remaining respondents either gave a neutral answer or none at all.


The only change that I could find in the data, was one of extremity.  There were fewer people this year that opted for the “very good” option, and more who simply said “good.” While we could interpret this as a cooling in public approval, most of us pollsters stop short of doing so.  The severity of responses seems to fluctuate quite a bit, especially on four and five point scales, so we often take the safer bet in consolidating responses into simply “positive” and “negative.”


So the public feels safe, but what do people know?  Are the actual changes in crime rates?  Tune in next week and I’ll outline an even more interesting topic: has actual crime increased?  How many more people were attacked or robbed this year than last?


Data from 2013 have a margin of error of about 3%, and 1% from 2012.  Visit our website at gorbi.com.

 

 

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