There is a dramatic increase in sophisticated organized crime and gang murders throughout the Soviet Union, Pravda, the Communist Party daily, reported.
The paper painted a lurid picture of gangsters using computers, electronic bugs and powerful hot rods to thwart police officers who, if they were not on the take themselves, were handicapped in the fight against crime by shoddy equipment and inadequate conspiracy laws.The Pravda disclosures, and other recent crime exposes in the official press, are a buildup to a major rewrite of criminal conspiracy laws - something that the Kremlin previously maintained only capitalist countries needed.
Pravda reporter Georgi Ovcharenko said he saw police officers draining gasoline from three patrol cars to get enough fuel for a fourth vehicle to answer an emergency summons to the scene of a crime. The paper said gangland murders are up 14 percent and armed robberies by 40 percent last year.
Pravda did not cite specific totals and reliable crime statistics are still a novelty here. Nevertheless, Pravda said that "Mafia groups" were responsible for 218 gangland slayings and 285 armed robberies between 1986 and 1988.
It linked the surge in crime to the development of private enterprise. Those entrepreneurs who have been able to open private restaurants and shops under the party's perestroika economic reforms are finding themselves victimized by thugs demanding protection money.
There have been numerous reported cases in recent months of arsons and smashed windows at some of the prosperous new enterprises. Pravda said that some of the new entrepreneurs are buying guns to protect themselves or are getting police officers to moonlight as guards at salaries that are two to three times more than they make from the state.
The article was a sensational expose of the sort not usually found in the staid official mouthpiece of the party's Central Committee.
It said new laws are needed, quoting officials who helped with the drafting of a new anti-racketeering law. For decades, Soviet criminal law said nothing about organized crime, which was considered to be a problem only in capitalist countries.
The article also quoted one of the country's top law enforcement officials, Deputy General Procurator Alexander Katusev, as saying gangsters are avoiding prosecution because they have bribed and corrupted local judges and police.
"Often underground millionaires, thieves and public prosecutors, judges and black-marketeers, party officials and godfathers are all in the same boat together," Katusev said.