Despite Qatar’s rapidly growing population, the number of crimes recorded by officers across the country have fallen dramatically in recent years, a new government report has said.
That development comes after documented crimes in Qatar multiplied six-fold between 2001 and 2010, according to a government report released at the time that blamed the increase on the country’s growing number of expats.
But new official figures now suggest crime peaked in 2010 and has since been declining.
It said the crime rate fell by 3.5 percent in 2015, but did not state the actual number of reported cases.
That decline includes a dramatic 49 percent reduction in the number of reported violent crimes, including murder, aggravated assault, rape, kidnapping, robbery and arson.
Again, the actual number of incidents was not reported. In 2014, there were 14 “fire and arson” cases as well as seven kidnappings, according to MDPS figures, which did not include a breakdown of other types of violent crime.
Industrial Area crime
The highest crime rates in Qatar are in the Industrial Area and other neighborhoods with labor camps, according to the Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC), an independent association that provides information to US companies operating in foreign countries.
With Qatar’s blue-collar workforce projected to keep rising over the next year, OSAC said it expects crime in these areas to tick upwards.
The MOI did not offer any theories as to why crime may be falling, but did mention it has been beefing up its electronic surveillance efforts through new programs such as its “Security Coverage of Commercial Streets” initiative.
Additionally, last month, the MOI opened a new security monitoring and counter-cybercrime headquarters, which comes as the number of CCTV cameras keeping an eye on residents in public places multiplies.
Another possibility behind the statistical decline is that fewer crimes are being reported to police. Underreporting is a phenomenon that muddles official crime statistics in countries around the world.
OSAC suggests authorities in Qatar occasionally turn a blind eye to some offenses:
“Violent crime also occurs between/among Qatari nationals and/or by Qataris against foreign workers (such as domestic staff) but often goes unreported or is not fully investigated,” the organization said in its 2015 report on the Gulf country.
This appeared to be the case last year, when an Indonesian domestic worker was badly beaten by her sponsor.
Despite being hospitalized with a broken wrist, a gash on her skull requiring six stitches and numerous bruises and scars, she told Doha News that she was not interviewed by police.
Crimes on the rise
While violent incidents may have fallen last year, the MOI said other types of offenses rose.
That includes cybercrimes, which jumped 52 percent last year. There were 21 “computer crimes” in 2014, according to MDPS, although it’s not clear if the two offenses are directly comparable.
The MOI attributed the rise “to the spread of technology means and social media networks and other tools (used) … without precautionary procedures.”
However, 2015 was also the first full year that prosecutors were able to press charges under Qatar’s sweeping cybercrime legislation, which was signed into law in September 2014.
That includes a case last fall, in which a woman was convicted of insulting her former landlord over social media. She was charged with libel, an offense that was already illegal prior to the introduction of the cybercrime law.
Another crime that’s on the rise is begging. The MOI said 590 individuals – “mostly from outside the country” – were arrested last year for soliciting donations from others. In 2014, 34 cases of begging were recorded, according to MDPS.
While not mentioned in today’s MOI report, the MDPS said that crimes related to alcohol and gambling, fraud and “state security” cases have been on the rise in recent years.
Human rights cases
The MOI also released several figures related to its enforcement of human rights provisions, including that:
- 8,900 individuals and companies were “blacklisted or banned” in 2015. The term is typically used to refer to entities that are barred from sponsoring additional employees due to labor law violations. In 2012, some 2,400 companies and 1,200 individuals were blacklisted, the MOI previously said.
- Some 10,068 travel tickets were issued to expats so they could permanently return to their home country.
- Authorities conducted 90 “inspection campaigns” in 2015 that resulted in 2,145 individuals “surrender(ing) in front of the security departments (and) willing to leave for their native countries.”