Police struggle to combat rise in foreign crime

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Police struggle to combat rise in foreign crime

At a police station in Daerim-dong, Yeongdeungpo District in southwestern Seoul, it is not hard to see police officers sweating to control foreign criminals. When the JoongAng Ilbo visited the No. 3 Daerim Police Station on Sunday, the police showed video clips that contained various kinds of foreign criminals’ bad behavior caught on tape.

In one video clip, a Chinese woman caught urinating inside the subway station hurled abuse at police officers and one Chinese man in his 30s flew into a rage and shook his finger at police officers, saying, “How dare you treat me like a criminal!”

The police said that the frequency of foreign crime increases every year in Yeongdeungpo District, as it has one of the highest foreign resident populations in Seoul. There are a total of 31,404 residents in Daerim-dong and about 12 percent, or 3,872 people, are foreigners.

“In particular with the Chinese, they look down on us because they know that we [Korean police] treat foreign suspects more respectfully than Chinese police do,” a police officer told the JoongAng Ilbo. “We should control the foreign criminals more decisively, but I don’t think the people in the central government have the same idea as us.”

The police pointed out that this mindset has been promoted since 2003 when Kang Kum-sill was the justice minister. At the time, the ministry banned police agencies from taking foreigners’ fingerprints, which are very important for investigations, saying doing so is a violation of foreigners’ human rights.

However, the government began collecting fingerprints and requiring foreigners to carry photo IDs since 2009, in response to the rate of foreign crime increasing twofold between 2004 and 2008.

Yet the police say that the ministry, which is in charge of information collection, is still lukewarm on sharing information with police, making it much harder to investigate foreign crime.

A 31-year-old Vietnamese man surnamed Xu, who is suspected of murdering a couple of Koreans in Busan, is seventh on the country’s most wanted list, has been in hiding for more than a year and the police have no clue about his whereabouts.

“If the Korea Immigration Service shares foreign criminals’ basic information such as a color photo and fingerprints with us, we can track down more criminals,” investigator Oh Jong-hwan of the Gangseo Police Precinct in Busan told the JoongAng Ilbo. The immigration service agency is under the Ministry of Justice.

“We’ve provided the necessary budget and computer system to manage the information but the ministry is putting off handing it over from day to day,” a spokesman for the National Police Agency said.

“We are sharing the information for those deported foreigners,” a spokesman from the justice ministry said. “We will discuss with police soon to extend the range of information sharing.”

“The justice ministry and the police should lay pride aside and share the necessary information for the nation’s security,” said Jang Jun-oh, a researcher at the Korean Institute of Criminology.

By Kim Min-sang [sakwon80@joongang.co.kr]
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