In 2023, when the Prosecutor-General’s Office published data on crimes in Russia for 2022, Paper noticed the increase in homicides in St. Petersburg. The number of criminal cases opened in the city under the articles “murder” and “attempted murder” increased by more than 20%.
At the same time, according to data from the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MVD) for the year 2022, collected by the To Be Precise (Если быть точным) project, the number of murdered people in St. Petersburg decreased by 21.6%.
Paper examined the data and spoke with a criminologist. We explain why the statistics from these two agencies differ and what is actually happening with the murders.
What Different Agencies’ Homicide Data Shows
In late July, Paper published a study on violent crimes in St. Petersburg and Leningrad Oblast. According to the data from the Prosecutor-General’s Office, the number of criminal cases under the articles “murder” (Article 105 of the Criminal Code of Russia) and “attempted murder or threat of murder” (Article 119 of the Criminal Code of Russia) increased by 22.4%. In 2021, the agency registered 881 cases, while in 2022, there were 1078 cases.
According to Paper’s calculations, this was the first spike in murders and attempted murders since 2016.
Later, the To Be Precise project collected data on crime in Russia, which is tracked by the Ministry of Internal Affairs. This data is made available on the United Interagency Statistical and Information System website and the legal statistics website of the Prosecutor-General’s Office. According to this data, the number of murdered people in St. Petersburg has gradually decreased since 2020. In 2021, it decreased by 21.38% to 125 people, and in 2022, it decreased by 21.6% to 98 people.
Why the Number of Murdered People Doesn’t Match the Number of Criminal Cases
Criminologist Vladimir Kudryavtsev told Paper that it’s impossible to judge the number of homicides based on the data from the Prosecutor-General’s Office. In these published statistics, the article of the Criminal Code that pertains to murder is combined with attempted murder and threats of murder articles.
According to the expert, “threat of murder” encompasses various acts, and in each case, the police decide whether specific actions can be classified as such a threat. As a result, it’s impossible to determine exactly what is included in the statistics.
Previously, a sociologist who wished to remain anonymous told Paper that law enforcement officials may interpret fights as attempted murder if the suspect struck the neck or heart area with a sharp object. “This allows law enforcement to increase the number of crimes being investigated under a more serious charge,” explained the anonymous expert.
According to Kudryavtsev, it’s not advisable to draw conclusions about trends based on the data available to the public. Due to the vagueness of the concept of a “threat of murder,” changes in the statistics from year to year don’t explain much.