Ethnic gangs are the biggest organized crime problem in Moscow and Russia as a whole, according to chief of the Moscow police's criminal investigative division Maj. Gen. Igor Zinoviev.
"Most crimes are perpetrated by relatively small gangs of illegal migrants which mostly focus on assaults and robberies. All criminal investigative divisions have lately formed special units for combating the ethnic type of organized crime," Zinoviev said in an interview published by Kommersant on Friday.
Russian criminal investigative divisions detected 883 ethnic gangs last year and over 600 of them were neutralized. This year alone 1,000 persons have been prosecuted on those grounds.
Ethnic gangs are mostly involved in street violence and mugging, and any citizen can fall victim to them, Zinoviev said.
He added that the majority of street crimes were committed by gangs with origins in Central Asian republics.
"Over half of assaults and robberies [nearly 100 out of 160 crimes detected this year] and an overwhelming majority of rapes [over 90 out of 138] were committed by persons from the near abroad [former Soviet republics] and they are responsible for 90 percent of warehouse assaults. They get employed as warehouse loaders and cleaners and share insider information about valuable goods or transporters of large amounts of money with their fellow countrymen," Zinoviev said.
Georgians traditionally burgle apartments and Azeris abduct people for ransom.
"But practically all of their victims are successful fellow countrymen and the rate of latent crimes is high - far from all families of the abducted persons turn to the police," the criminal investigative division chief added.
Ethnic gangs keep to themselves, he said. "First of all, they keep away from strangers - Russians or people with origins in other countries, which limits the possibility of undercover police operations. Besides, many gangs of the kind operate by the so-called shift method - they come here, commit a series of crimes and return to their home countries. Then others come to take their place," Zinoviev said.
It is difficult to prevent crime amongst migrants, Zinoviev said.
"The so-called complex of a mercenary operating on a foreign ground is characteristic of them: they have no moral limitations, and elders or clerics whom they traditionally listen to in their home countries and who can help reach out to them are not around," the police official said.