A Latvian State Police precinct in Gulbene

Crime in Latvia is usually low, especially compared to previous years, when it was named the "crime capital of Europe" by Forbes[1] in 2008. The homicide rate in Latvia was 3.9 cases per 100,000 people in 2019, a sharp drop from 10 cases per 100,000 people in 2000,[2] and has been steadily decreasing,[3] but has seen recent increases. The United States Department of State has assessed Latvia's security rating as "medium",[4] with a moderate crime rate. In recent times, crime has been increasing, particularly due to many Latvians stranded because of the COVID-19 pandemic returning to Latvia and choosing to commit crime.[5] According to Interpol, Latvia is considered an attractive place for regional and organized criminals involved in drug trafficking, arms trafficking, human trafficking, or smuggling.[6] According to the Central Statistical Bureau of Latvia, a third of all women in Latvia have suffered some form of sexual violence or rape while men are subjected to violence outside the family.[7]

Crime had seen massive increases in Latvia after the restoration of independence after end of the Soviet occupation.[8] The market transition from a planned economy to a free market-economy caused great social uncertainty in Latvia, and the crime rates rose.[9] The Latvian government defines crime as "an action endangering society and entailing criminal punishment whether committed intentionally or through negligence".[10] The punishment for murder in Latvia is "deprivation of liberty" no lower than 3 years and no higher than 15 years.[11] The highest punishment offered by the Republic of Latvia is life imprisonment, given only in extreme cases like terrorism. Crimes in Latvia have also been committed by other nations, like Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union during their respective occupations of Latvia in 1940 and 1941.[12]

Types of crime

The main types of crime common in Latvia include human trafficking, motor vehicle theft, and corruption.[13] Other crimes are also listed below.


The robbery rate in Latvia in 2018 was 27.7 cases per 100,000, a decrease from 108.3 cases per 100,000 people in 2004.[14] Over the two years ranging from 2018-2020, at least 10 warehouses of trading and production have been said to be robbed.[15]

Robbery rate in Latvia per 100,00 people (2003-2015, 2017)[16]
2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2017
72.00 51.00 51.00 46.00 46.00 41.00 40.00 31.00


Homicide in Latvia has been seeing upticks recently. In 2019, a study conducted by Eurostat revealed that the three Baltic states had the highest homicide rate in Europe in that year: Latvia had the highest, followed by Lithuania and Estonia, with 4.7 out of 100,000 Latvians being murdered yearly.[17]

Drug use

According to Euronews, Latvia, along with Italy and the United Kingdom, have the worst rankings in drug usage.[18] The most common illicit drug used by Latvians is cannabis,[19][20] used by young adults aged 15–34, and specifically by males. Cocaine and ecstasy are also commonly used by Latvians. Drug trafficking is also common in Latvia.[21]

Originally, in the 1970s and 80s, drugs were produced at home, but from the 1990s onward, organized crime started manufacturing illegally-produced drugs,[22] like LSD, ecstasy, cocaine and amphetamines. However, very few people are willing to take medicine for it.


Main article: Corruption in Latvia

Corruption is considered a serious issue in Latvia. Transparency International gave Latvia 42 out of a rank of 180 in corruption in 2020,[23] an increase by 2 places compared to 2019.[24] The Corruption Prevention and Combating Bureau (KNAB) is the main anti-corruption agency in Latvia. In a report by Reuters, that former Bank of Latvia Governor Ilmārs Rimšēvičs had been detained in prison for accepting a bribe of 500,000 euro bribe from Latvian bank ABLV.[25] Frequently, people from other countries, like Russia, have money laundering schemes based in Latvia.[26]

Organized crime

Organized crime in Latvia is common, particularly due to Latvia's position in the European continent.[13] Illegal immigration, human trafficking, and corruption are problems that organized crime groups in Latvia take advantage of frequently. As of 2014, 70 organized crime groups operate in Latvia.[27]

Illegal immigration

Main article: Demographics of Latvia § Immigration

Illegal immigration is common issue in Latvia. The main origin countries of illegal immigrants are Russia, Belarus, Ukraine, and Moldova, and from as far as Iraq, Iran, Bangladesh, Vietnam, and Afghanistan.[28] Latvia, along with Lithuania and Poland, claims that Belarus has been using illegal immigrants from war-torn countries like Iraq as a way to pressure the European Union into lifting its sanctions on Belarus, and as such has declared a state of emergency along the Belarus–Latvia border.[29]

There were 665 refugees in Latvia in 2019, 237,966 migrants, and 181 new asylum applications in 2019;[30] in 2021, Latvia revealed it had detained 1,000 migrants, mostly from Iraq, Afghanistan and other Middle Eastern countries along the Belarus-Latvia border.[31]

Efforts to prevent crime

Main article: Latvian State Police

The Latvian State Police (Latvijas Valsts policija, VP) is the official national police agency of Latvia. It is also helped by organizations it is a member of, like Interpol and Europol. Latvia is also signatory to the terms of the Treaty of Lisbon, which ensures that all EU member states allow free right of immigration, asylum, and are expected to work together to combat crime.[32] In September 2014, Latvian police participated in "Operation Archimedes", an effort organized by Europol to hunt down a cargo train sending stolen cars to Tajikistan.[13]


  1. ^ Archdeacon, Talis Saule (23 July 2008). "Latvia 'Europe's crime capital'". The Baltic Times. Archived from the original on 2008-07-31.
  2. ^ "Latvia Homicide rate, 1990-2020 - knoema.com". Knoema. Archived from the original on 2013-09-14. Retrieved 2021-10-09.
  3. ^ "Latvia's crime rate has dropped to all-time low: police chief". Xinhua News Agency. 14 February 2019. Archived from the original on February 13, 2019.
  4. ^ "Working Together to Protect U.S. Organizations Overseas". www.osac.gov. Retrieved 2021-10-09.
  5. ^ Spundiņa, Linda (1 October 2020). "Serious crimes on the rise in Latvia". Public Broadcasting of Latvia. Archived from the original on 5 October 2021.
  6. ^ "Latvia". www.interpol.int. Retrieved 2021-10-09.
  7. ^ "Crime and violence | Central Statistical Bureau of Latvia". www.csb.gov.lv. Retrieved 2021-10-09.
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  9. ^ Haining, Robert; Ceccato, Vânia (4 July 2008). "Short and Medium term Dynamics and their Influence on Acquisitive Crime Rates in the Transition States of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania". Applied Spatial Analysis and Policy. 1 (3): 215–244. doi:10.1007/s12061-008-9009-1. S2CID 129707491 – via Springer Link.
  10. ^ "Crime and justice | Central Statistical Bureau of Latvia". www.csb.gov.lv. Retrieved 2021-10-09.
  11. ^ "Criminal Law of the Republic of Latvia" (PDF). 16 February 2010. Archived (PDF) from the original on 2017-07-20.
  12. ^ Nollendorfs, Valters (26 February 2010). "CRIMES OF COMMUNISM IN LATVIA" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on 8 October 2021.
  13. ^ a b c Loskutovs, Aleksjs (2016). "Transnational Organized Crime – Latvian Challenges and Responses". Connections: The Quarterly Journal. 15 (3): 33–39. doi:10.11610/Connections.15.3.03.
  14. ^ "Latvia- Robbery rate". Knoema. 2018. Archived from the original on 10 October 2021.
  15. ^ "Companies join in bid to combat robbery in Latvia". Public Broadcasting of Latvia. 2 June 2020.
  16. ^ "Latvia: Robbery rate". The Global Economy.com. Archived from the original on 2016-05-20.
  17. ^ "Latvia had EU's highest homicide rate in 2019". Public Broadcasting of Latvia. 20 September 2019.
  18. ^ Harris, Chris (5 June 2014). "Italy, Latvia and UK among Europe's worst for serious drug use, says report". Euronews.
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  21. ^ Loskutovs, Aleksjs (2016). "Transnational Organized Crime- Latvian Challenges And Responses" (PDF). Connections: The Quarterly Journal. 15 (3): 33–39. doi:10.11610/Connections.15.3.03.
  22. ^ Ivančiks, Jānis; Tumalavičius, Vladas; Teivāns-Treinovskis, Jānis (June 2015). "Security of Society: Narcotics and Drug Addiction in Latvia and Lithuania". Journal of Security and Sustainability Issues. 4 (4): 353–368. doi:10.9770/jssi.2015.4.4(4) – via ResearchGate.
  23. ^ "Latvia". Transparency International. 2020. Archived from the original on 2020-07-24.
  24. ^ "Corruption Perception Index 2019".
  25. ^ O'Donnell, John; Gelzis, Gederts (12 April 2019). "Corruption scandal casts long shadow over Latvia". Reuters.
  26. ^ Brown, Sadie (7 June 2021). "Latvian Authorities Seize Assets Under Magintsky Act". Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project.
  27. ^ "70 organized crime groups operating in Latvia". The Baltic Course. 2 October 2014. Archived from the original on 21 October 2021.
  28. ^ "Migration in Eastern and Central Europe: Latvia". European Parliament. Archived from the original on 2007-02-24.
  29. ^ Henley, John; Roth, Andrew; Rankin, Jennifer (10 August 2021). "Latvia and Lithuania act to counter migrants crossing Belarus border". The Guardian.
  30. ^ "Latvia Immigration Detention Profile". Global Detention Project. 21 July 2020. Archived from the original on 2016-02-08.
  31. ^ "Latvia Says It Intercepted More Than 1,000 Migrants On Belarus Border Over Past Month". Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. 8 September 2021.
  32. ^ Vilks, A. (2012). "Criminal law policy of Latvia in the context of European Union: The treaty of Lisbon" (PDF). SHS Web of Conferences. 2: 00040. doi:10.1051/shsconf/20120200040.