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In 1989 and 1990, the crime rate in Poland rose substantially. The increase was attributed to several factors: social stresses from the uncertainties of the transition period; the institutional inadequacy of the Ministry of Internal Affairs to deal with social unrest without wielding unlimited authority; and widespread skepticism that prevented public cooperation with police investigations. Public confidence had been destroyed by numerous incidents of arbitrary and unpunished police violence against civilians. In Warsaw, where robberies increased by 50 percent between 1988 and 1989, police solved only 16 percent of reported crimes in 1990. Police budgets were slashed, and recruitment became very difficult because police work now carried low prestige and offered few benefits. For personnel remaining from the communist era, the drop in institutional support was especially demoralizing.

By 1990 these conditions led to citizen complaints about being defenseless against crime and to complaints by the police that they could not do their work properly because of poor cooperation from citizens and insufficient budgetary support. Between 1990 and 1991, the police budget was cut by 13 percent and distance limitations were put on the use of patrol cars. Already in early 1990, however, legislation had been drafted to put the police under a separate chief appointed by and directly responsible to the prime minister. Such a shift meant that the Ministry of Internal Affairs could not issue direct orders on the conduct of police business. Local jurisdictions also could establish their own police forces as counterweights to the national police system; political qualifications could not be considered in hiring at any level. The new law also placed extensive limitations on police powers that interfered with citizen rights.

In 1991 the Citizens' Militia changed its name to simply Police (Policja). Personnel were retrained, and a strong public relations campaign was established to gain public trust. Uniforms and operational methods were changed, and by 1992 police had begun to flush pockets of crime from the inner cities. In 1992 the aura of fear had dissipated, and a large part of the public came to believe the police were performing as well as possible under strict budget limitations. A major newspaper poll in early 1992 showed the police second to the military (and above the Roman Catholic Church) in respect afforded Polish institutions.

By 1991 large increases had occurred in white-collar crime and economic scandals connected with privatization, liberalization of foreign trade, and decentralization of economic policy making. The unsealing of Poland's borders also made the country vulnerable to foreign organized crime. Accordingly, the Ministry of Internal Affairs set up a special police unit to combat corruption and economic fraud. In 1991, with a total detail of 600, the special unit set up special departments at existing police stations in seventeen districts.

New international conditions fostered new types of crime in the early 1990s. By 1992 the large number of refugees entering Poland, many without legal status and without employment, had become a serious source of crime. And explosives and arms left behind by the Soviet armed forces combined with social unrest to contribute to a significant increase in terrorist bombings. In addition to actual bombings, police frequently had to cope with false reports. As many as 90 percent of false alarms involved Poles between eleven and sixteen years old.

By 1992 narcotics had also became a problem. Bands of Polish amphetamine producers and distributors had developed a complex underground organization that produced very pure amphetamine narcotics, laundered money, and smuggled large amounts of their products in Western Europe (see Health Issues , ch. 2). The "Polish pipeline" of agents abroad moved hashish, heroin, and cocaine into Western markets with increasing frequency. In the early 1990s, the entry of international traffickers into the indigenous Polish system threatened to raise the sophistication of local operations and make Poland a central distribution point for the world narcotics industry. Asian, Latin American, and African traffickers found Polish operatives useful because customs agents had not yet learned to identify East Europeans as potential smugglers. In 1991 some 20 percent of amphetamines captured in Western Europe originated in Poland.

Prevention of drug-related crime was hampered by policies remaining from the communist era and by budget limitations. Drug laws remained very lax in 1992; because drug trading was regarded as a minor offense, no Pole was convicted for amphetamine activities between 1985 and 1992. The nation's police force included only thirty full-time drug enforcement officers in 1992, with an annual operating budget of between US$100,000 and US$200,000.

Data as of October 1992

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