No. XXXVIII (2016)

Preventing the Perpetration of Criminal Offences by Foreign Nationals Residing in Poland

Irena Rzeplińska
Institute of Law Studies of the Polish Academy of Sciences, Department of Criminology

Published 2016-01-01


  • preventing,
  • delinquency,
  • criminal offences,
  • crime,
  • foreign nationals,
  • prevention

How to Cite

Rzeplińska, I. (2016). Preventing the Perpetration of Criminal Offences by Foreign Nationals Residing in Poland. Archives of Criminology, (XXXVIII), 5–13.


It has been for several decades now that criminological literature has addressed the issue of crime prevention in societies. Helena Kołakowska-Przełomiec argued in 1984: “While trying to formulate a definition of crime prevention, on no account should we disregard the fact that a criminal offence may be committed only by an individual who lives in a certain specific setting, in a society. Crime prevention can therefore be associated with the conditions of the external world in which a person lives, the constraints of social interactions, interpersonal relations, as well as with the person’s own identity, selfdevelopment, lifetime experience, attitudes, aspirations, and the scope of individual activities. Accordingly, crime prevention may be associated with all that effectively makes up the fabric of an outside world in which the person lives, with the overall diversity of human activity, groups of people, and individuals. Indeed, such activity may be closely linked to crime prevention, or only indirectly related to it, or it may also be very far removed from crime prevention. Crime prevention may also exist objectively, without any human activity linked to it whatsoever (e.g. in a mountainous area devoid of roads it is effectively impossible to commit traffic offences).” The author formulated the following definition: “crime prevention is construed as any and all actions which might lead, be that directly or indirectly, to inhibiting the incidence of criminality at large, of criminal offences, and the development of criminal phenomena all over the world.” Ten years later, another definition of crime prevention was proposed by Janina Czapska: “crime prevention should to be construed as all measures aimed at reducing the overall crime incidence and load, either by limiting the circumstances conducive to committing criminal offences, or by exerting an impact on a potential perpetrator, as well as on all members of a society.” In a document of 2002 promulgated by the UN Economic and Social Council, crime prevention is construed as a set of policies and measures that “seek to reduce the risk of crimes occurring, and their potential harmful effects on individuals and society, including the fear of crime.” Modern Europe is a world of people who keep migrating, moving between countries. The presence of foreign nationals (i.e. those who are not the nationals of a particular country) in each of the EU Member States is a natural phenomenon, as they are the EU citizens and the third-country nationals. Criminal offences committed by foreign nationals are also natural enough, from random offences to fully premeditated ones, from minor offences to serious crimes, from common offences to criminal offences specific to foreign nationals in a particular country and during a specific period, committed under certain social, economic and political conditions. In Poland, police crime statistics have taken due note of foreign nationals as suspects since 1984. The proportion of foreign nationals to suspects in total in the period spanning 1984–1988 ranged from 0.1% to 0.5%. This proportion increased throughout the 1990s, from 0.8 in 1991 to 1.8% in 1996, and then to 2.02% in 1997. A decrease in this proportion was noted – 1.6% in 1998, 1.3% in 2000, 0.67% in 2004, and 0.43% in 2012. Foreign nationals suspected of committing criminal offences in Poland in the first decade of the 21st century come from 61 countries. 30% of them are EU citizens. The most numerous are citizens of Germany, Lithuania, Romania, Bulgaria and the Czech Republic. Foreign nationals from non-EU countries constitute 70% of all foreign national suspects, among which the most numerous come from the neighbouring countries: Ukraine, Belarus, the Russian Federation and Armenia. In short, foreign nationals suspected of committing criminal offences in Poland originate from the neighbouring countries: Ukraine, Belarus, Germany, Lithuania, and Russia. The overall picture of criminal offences committed by foreign nationals in Poland in the first decade of the 21st century is as follows: a negligible share of foreign suspects in the human crime category, a high proportion in the specific offences category, i.e. driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs, whereupon, in the absence of a natural person victim, the only ‘aggrieved’ party is public order, i.e. road traffic safety. The high share of foreign suspects in the offences against the credibility of documents means that foreign nationals who hold residence in Poland, or who enter Poland, make use of forged IDs or travel documents. The overall picture that emerges from the police crime statistics still needs to be supplemented by such rare events as terrorist crime, crime committed in organized groups, or hard to detect crimes, e.g. illegal cigarette or illicit drug manufacturing. In line with the definitions cited above, with regard to each particular type of criminal offence committed by foreign nationals, an appropriate strategy needs to be determined. In each individual case and for each type of crime a separate listing of crime risk factors should be compiled. Smuggling (duly registered by the Customs Service) seems one of the ‘favourite’ types of a criminal offence committed by foreign nationals in Poland (even though Polish nationals also perpetrate this kind of crime). Smuggling takes place both at border crossings and elsewhere, along usually rather desolate, woodland areas straddling a state border, not subject to heavy patrolling by border guard troops. Moving contraband across the border stands to bring substantial profits to all parties involved. In 96% of cases, the contraband commodity of choice are the tobacco products. Foreign nationals are also registered in Poland as the perpetrators of business-related crimes: criminal offences aimed at obtaining material benefits at the expense of other parties involved in business activity. Judicial statistics indicate that foreign nationals are convicted for breaching the Industrial Property Act, including its provisions pertaining to trademark protection, followed by offences under the Copyright and Related Rights Act; here, for the most part, crimes involve illicitly replicated software, music, and movies on the market. The perpetrators of these offences are mostly Bulgarian, Romanian, Ukrainian, Belarussian, Armenian, Slovakian, and Georgian citizens. In the area of business crime, organized criminal groups appear to dominate. As may be gleaned from the case records, most groups dealt with violations of the trademark protection provisions, copyright, money counterfeiting, capital fraud, including bank loan fraud, offences related to ATM cards and Internet accounts, followed by insurance fraud and the offences related to trading in liquid fuels. The groups comprised criminals from nearly 20 nationalities, mostly from Bulgaria, Lithuania, Romania, Ukraine, and Armenia, and less frequently the citizens of the UK, Vietnam, China, Moldova, and Georgia. In the period spanning 2015–2016, a brand-new type of crime was uncovered, i.e. professionally organized illicit manufacture of cigarettes in Poland. The report on the status of national security in Poland for 2014 draws attention to the involvement of foreign nationals in criminal activities. Tax fraud committed by foreign nationals from EU countries appears to be on the rise. Foreigners register business ventures in Poland and then proceed to abuse the Polish tax system with a view to benefiting from undue VAT refunds. Combating business crime, as referenced in the Report, requires fostering closer cooperation between various departments, authorities, and statutory bodies involved in preventing and combating crime. This approach has already spawned a government programme for the prevention and combating business crime for 2015–2020, in which the key principles of the actual action plan have been laid down. Research on organized crime groups, including those involving foreign nationals, reveals that all groups intended to profit from criminal activities, were managed by strong leaders, with ethnicity being of much lesser importance in their operations. They are mobile, moving both across the territory of Poland and beyond its borders. Organized crime groups involving foreign nationals are multi-disciplinary; they are involved in drug-related offences, business crime, and other types of criminal pursuits. Variability in the actual type of criminal activity pursued is always dictated by the principal objective – the achievement of material gain. Prevention and combating terrorist threats in Poland is provided for in the National Counter-Terrorism Programme for 2015–2019. There is no single system for preventing and combating crimes committed by foreign nationals, and hence we are not going to formulate its objectives here. Prevention, i.e. the identification of risk factors for criminal offences committed by foreigners, may be pursued in relation to a particular type of crime committed at any one time (types of criminal offences vary over time). Combating or controlling the criminal behaviours of foreign nationals, to express it in modern lingo, may be pursued through obtaining adequate insight into the actual aetiology of various kinds of criminal offences committed by foreign nationals, and an appropriate penal policy.


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