Expats here often compare crime in Turkey with that of the UK. I have heard the following comments more than once…
“The Turkish police would not put up with that nonsense”
“I can tell you now that the Turkish police would beat the s*** out of them”
Now it would be a mistake to think that crime does not happen here in Turkey because it does. Occasionally, peaceful demonstrations in large cities get out of hand and there are many occasions when I have picked up the newspaper to read stories of rioting in towns like Diyarbakir.
However the major difference is there is an unwritten rule that you do not s*** on your own doorstep. Yes, riots in Turkey are so dignified that you aim for the police, their vehicles and nothing else. If you start damaging and looting people’s homes or business, you better have a miraculous ability to wake up the next morning with a new face and identity.
The main conversations in the ex-pat community were comparing the Turkish police with the British. In these conversations, the Turkish police were suddenly elevated to this status of super gods and anyone would think that crime in Turkey did not exist.
Now, I have to admit that I have never been a hard core supporter of the Turkish police. This would date back to memories of overinflated speeding tickets, domestic violence against women that was ignored and a general attitude of “do as I say and not as I do”.
The Turkish police however do live up to the typical stereotyped role and not many people would like to cross swords with them. Crime in Turkey overall is relatively low however in the big cities like Istanbul; pickpocketing of tourists is rife and in my own town of Altinkum, burglaries stats have gone through the roof. Criminals will struck when opportunity lets them and no “Rambo” stereotyping of the police force can prevent that.
It would be a mistake to think that the low crime in Turkey is purely down to the police force because it is not. The low crime is because of culture and society.
Generally, there are three things that are at the heart of every Turkish community. Pride, Families and Livelihood
If you try to threaten any of the above, then you are forewarned that you have made enemies for life. I do not know many Turkish people who would call the police if they felt an intrusion into their lives by someone intent on damaging and destroying any three of the above key elements. They would deal with it in their own way.
How Is Crime Dealt With?
In my first year of living in Turkey, I learned harshly that the police do not rule the streets and sometimes defending your property can develop into an incident much worse. I had settled in the tourist, coastal resort of Marmaris and was a witness to an incident that has stayed with me to this day.
A man had lifted an item from a shop without paying for it. Five shopkeepers were chasing him down the street; they caught him and gave him the kicking of his life. You might say “Bravo” because after all, he was a thief.
I say different because I looked at the soles of that man’s shoes as they were hanging off. I saw his unwashed skin and his tattered and old clothing. The man was on the poverty line and for all I know was stealing to provide for his family.
The loud cracking sound that I heard was explained to me as the sound of his skull cracking. That is one memory that I have from my time in Marmaris and eleven years later, I still cannot get it out of my head.
Crime in Turkey
I am not under the illusion that Turkey is sown up lock, stock and barrel when it comes to crime, but I do know that I feel a lot safer on the streets of Turkey than I ever felt in the UK.
There are unwritten rules firmly engrained into society and communities and these rules revolve around pride, families and livelihoods. Throw a little bit of respect into the mixture along with a sense of community spirit and everyone is prepared to deal with the tough times without turning on their own.
Further Reading : Article from Wikipedia about crime in Turkey