Russians brace themselves for increase in crime as poverty and job losses mount

Demand for guns and gun safes in Russia have increased since the war with Ukraine started, sales representatives say. (Credit: Mickey Mikolas/Pixabay)

The war against Ukraine and the ensuing sanctions have exacerbated many of Russia's domestic problems. Perhaps most sensitive of all is the issue of poverty, writes journalist Ivan Zhilin.

An estimated 600,000 Russian citizens have lost their jobs because of the withdrawal of Western companies alone, according to Andrei Turchak, secretary of the General Council of the United Russia Party. Large national Russian companies such as AvtoVAZ, Ural Airlines, Sheremetyevo and Vnukovo airports, and others have also announced the partial suspension of production and the sending of their employees to the downtime.

According to some economists, “hidden unemployment” is increasing in the country: people are not laid off, but they are sent on unpaid leave or transferred to part-time work. In the near future, it is possible that hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of Russians will formally have jobs but will have no money.

Against this background, there are growing concerns that the crime rate in Russia will increase. There is some reason to think so: during the previous economic crisis, caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, the number of serious and very serious crimes in the country increased immediately by 14 per cent. And now, even the Russian pro-government media are reporting on the increase in the number of crimes since the start of the “special operation” and call it “significant”, blaming it, however, on migrants. 

“Rising prices always lead to an increase in the number of thefts, robberies and looting. Of course, the percentage of crimes is especially high among those who have lost their jobs and can't leave Russia,” an FSB source told Russian news agency

Leaving aside the traditional migrant-phobia of the Russian security services (the actual proportion of crimes committed by migrants is 1.6 per cent), this indicates that the crime rate will only get worse. And Russians are actively preparing for this.

Russian insurance companies anticipate an increase in car thefts in order to take them apart for parts. And it is not surprising: 64 per cent of cars registered in Russia are foreign – and mainly Japanese, South Korean and German (car manufacturers from these countries have announced the cessation of deliveries of cars and spare parts to Russia). According to car owners, maintenance prices have already increased by half or two times; in the future a shortage of spare parts is predicted. Against this background, the demand for anti-theft systems in Moscow has already increased fourfold.

Russians have also become more concerned about the safety of their other property. According to representatives of Delta Security Systems, demand for security systems (video surveillance, alarm systems) for apartments and vacation homes in February and March was frenetic: from 21 to 27 February it increased by 43 per cent compared to the pre-war period, and in the first week of March growth was already 78 per cent. Now the situation has stabilised: according to market participants, this is due to the fact that those who wanted to buy something have bought it, and others simply do not have money.

Simultaneously with the mass withdrawal of cash (during the first days of the war alone Russian citizens withdrew 1.2 trillion rubles from their bank accounts), the need for safe storage has increased. On 23 March employees of the HardSafe store told Russian business magazine RBC that the demand for all kinds of safe deposit boxes, both weapon and household ones, had increased by 100 per cent.

Of course, the demand for gun safes means that citizens began to arm themselves. Representatives of gun stores tell us that Russians are buying pump-action and hunting carbines (Saiga, Beretta Bellmont, Huglu) and their ammunition en masse.

“We have been selling serious weapons only by pre-order since March: we do not have time to deliver,” a representative at one of the gun stores in Kazan told me. “Cartridges of 12-gauge, 345 TK and 366 TKM bullets, which are used in small-bore rifles, are selling very well.”

Demand for classic means of self defence like pepper spray has also increased: some sellers talk about a threefold increase in sales.

Against this background, only the fact that Russians have become more interested in dogs, which are perceived as guards, is comforting. It would be good if no one had to use them.