By Erl Murati
Albanian officials hope that the new law on the illegal possession of weapons will lead to a lower violent crime rate.
The new penal code, which came into law in June, increases the sentence for people convicted of illegal possession of weapons from three years maximum to three to eight years in prison. The new law also mandates that a sentence of no less than 10 years in prison be given to those who use weapons illegally in public places.
Police say that more than 20,000 violent crimes were reported in 2012 in Albania, an increase of 17 percent since 2011. During the same period, 920 people were arrested for illegal possession of weapons.
“The change of punishments in the penal code for illegal possession of arms or crimes within the family are important processes that influence crime rates,” Erzen Breçani, deputy Tirana police director, told SETimes.
Illegal weapons violence is not new to the country. In March 1997, venting their anger for losing money in the so-called pyramidal firms, people broke into the military depots. The rebellion led to the massive arming of the population, leading the subsequent governments to conduct campaigns to collect the weapons.
In the last two months, police have reported cases of six women who were killed by their husbands with illegal weapons.
On July 28th, a youngster shot into a sunbathing crowd on a beach in Vlora, killing three people with an illegal weapon. The crime was a result of a quarrel among youngsters over a female, and the perpetrator is still wanted by police.
“People caught in illegal possession of arms are punished with lenient sentences by the courts. The new law will result in lower crime rate. I think advertisements and informational announcements are needed, so people can realize they risk severer laws for various offenses from now on,” Aurel Celibashi, a lawyer in Tirana, told SETimes.
Although many citizens hope that the new legislation will curb violent crime, officials said this will only happen if the law is implemented correctly.
“If harmonisation is lacking between the strengthening of the penal code and the strict execution of this code by the judiciary, the effect won’t be the one expected. Every institution must do its own duty in the eyes of the law. Police are preventing or finding out the crimes and punishing the authors of the criminal events and the judiciary should execute the penal code strictly,” Interior Minister Flamur Noka told SETimes.