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Egypt-Incidence of Crime

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Egypt Index

Ordinary crime, that is, crime unconnected to political dissent or sectarian strife, was perceived to be a major problem during the 1980s, although it was difficult to demonstrate a strong upsurge in criminal activity on the basis of the limited data available. Minor crimes, such as petty theft, pickpocketing, and purse snatching, were widespread in the streets of metropolitan Cairo, but violence in the commission of these crimes was uncommon. In rural areas, crime victims generally sought retribution without going to the authorities, especially in cases where the honor of an individual or a family was tarnished. An informal analysis found that more than half the murder cases in rural areas occurred within the family and commonly involved issues of passion, honor, or vengeance.

Reliable official statistics on crime were not available, but an Egyptian report to Interpol, the international police organization, in 1988 recorded 784 murders, 364 serious assaults, 189 morals offenses, and 322 robberies involving violence in 1984. Thefts totaled 19,964, including 1,397 auto thefts but only 14 armed robberies. There were 1,313 cases of fraud and 10,559 drug offenses. The police claimed to have solved more than 90 percent of the major crimes and 75 percent of the thefts. The level of criminal activity reported appeared to be surprisingly low and the success rate in solving crimes unusually high, particularly in light of the belief that urban crime was escalating. The police recorded a total of more than 1,500 infractions of all kinds; presumably this included petty crimes and misdemeanors and such offenses as evasion of price controls.

In an interview in late 1989, the director of security for Cairo attributed higher crime rates to bad economic conditions, high unemployment, population growth, and changes in social norms. In 1988 Cairo experienced sharp increases in the theft of cars and other goods, offenses by women and juveniles, kidnappings, and vice cases. Bank robberies, gang activity, and other violence continued to be uncommon, however.

White-collar crime, smuggling, black marketing in currency, and other economic offenses were rampant and increased under the Sadat and Mubarak regimes. Sadat established special commissions to investigate official corruption. Soon after taking office, Mubarak condemned favoritism and graft and replaced several cabinet members whom he thought were inadequate in their efforts to detect and expose corruption. Nevertheless, economic crimes continued to be widespread. These crimes included embezzlement, tax and customs evasion, illegal currency transactions, smuggling and trading contraband, diversion of subsidized goods, "leakages" from free trade zones, kickbacks, and bribes to officials. In 1986 Egyptian officials arrested about 102,000 individuals for "supply violations," which included petty infringements by shopkeepers and vendors, such as their failure to observe price controls. Some of these violations, however, involved large enterprises engaged in major infractions, often with the connivance of government officials.

Data as of December 1990

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