Criminality in Prague: Tourists are not always the victims

A popular stop for many visitors to Prague, “Central Europe’s largest nightclub” served as the hunting ground for a rapist in February of 2015.

On the 21st of February 2015, an American student studying in Prague participated in one of the city’s infamous pub crawls with several friends. Following a beautiful but frigid day spent seeing statues of Charles IV and trying to resist trdelník, the group of students set out for the night. Shortly into the “crawl,” this young woman began speaking to a man on a short trip to the city. Ten years senior to the then-nineteen-year-old, he spent the rest of the night buying her vodka-Red Bulls and trying to get her to leave with him. She repeatedly rejected this offer, informing him that she wanted to stay with her friends. “I guess my big mistake was letting myself get separated from the group,” the woman, who wishes to remain anonymous, recalls. “I didn’t have a lot of money to spare or any data on my phone, so when he offered me a cab ride back to my apartment it seemed like my only option.” Within hours of this cab ride from Prague’s well-known five story club Karlovy Lázně, the woman was raped by the male tourist. Like so many sexually-based offenses, the crime went unreported.

“I felt the typical feelings associated with sexual assault—guilt, shame, fear, confusion. I don’t remember feeling any anger towards that man. None at all. There I was, cleaning bed sheets soaked in my own blood, and I could only condemn myself for going to that stupid club. So, with these emotions bouncing around in my head, I chose not to go to the police. I didn’t want to spoil my semester in the city.”

The Czech Republic is considered one of the safest countries in the world. Radio Praha reports a 7.3 percent decrease in crime from 2016 to 2017, with a mere 202,000 criminal acts reported in the central European nation. Interestingly enough, however, a high rate of the country’s violent crime takes place within the bounds of the picturesque historical city center. Studies conducted for the EU concerning tourism seasonality and crime prove a there is a direct relationship between the two, criminal acts spiking with numbers of visitors.  After analyzing the statistics made available on the interactive database over the past several years, the correlation is not evident, though much violent crime—including rape and physical assault—is committed in areas most heavily traversed by tourists. It is important to reiterate how few sex crimes are legally recorded, a national analysis conducted by the European Women’s Lobby estimating that as little as 8 percent of rapes committed in the Czech Republic are actually reported to police in spite of attempts to expand protective legislation against crimes such as sexual coercion.

While tourists are most often portrayed as the victims of criminal acts ranging from petty pickpocketing to well-publicized instants of violence,  it is not always the case. Igor, once a receptionist in an unnamed Prague hotel, describes the phenomenon as tourists’ impulse to do things found unacceptable when at home. An EU conference exploring tourism and security reiterates this point, citing tourists as particularly prone to high risk behaviors. Despite the fact that most studies focus upon the prospect of tourist victimization, tourists are not completely blameless in the perpetuation of violence, as was made evident in the opening story. Similarly, April of this past year saw the ferocious attack of a Czech waiter by a group of Dutch nationals visiting Prague for the weekend, engaging in the brutal beating when the man informed them that they could not drink their own alcohol on the premises of the garden restaurant. The waiter recovered from his injuries and the men apologized for their behavior, yet it is difficult to imagine that such incidents are isolated ones. Last year Prague 1 saw the controversial introduction of private “anti-conflict teams,” or antikonfliktní tým. Introduced to assist police attempting to enforce anti-smoking laws, the teams had particular problems with drunk tourists unwilling to obey the law and making a mess in the streets. Though the teams are no longer in use, their deployment into Old Town calls attention to what City Councilor for Criminal Safety and Prevention Ivan Solil referred to as the “brutality” of the area.

Bachelor parties full of tourists seeking cheap alcohol and Prague’s party scene have become a pervasive and possibly problematic element of the city’s landscape.

Crime in the city center is a clear issue for police officers as well as city administrators, yet information is not currently available regarding what proportion of these crimes are committed by foreign nationals; knowing whether or not tourists are to blame for this concentration of criminal acts could prove vital for improving safety conditions for visitors and locals alike. With 15.8 million tourists having flooded the country in 2017 alone, the maintenance of proper legal behavior amongst is these constituents is of the utmost importance for the maintenance of everyone’s well-being.




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