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Hong Kong Crime Falls as Blackmail Doubles on Naked Chat

Jan. 29 (Bloomberg) -- Total crime in Hong Kong decreased 4 percent in 2013 from the previous year even as blackmail offenses more than doubled because of so-called naked chat cases, according to a government statement.

A total of 72,911 crimes were recorded, Commissioner of Police Tsang Wai-Hung said at a press conference yesterday, according to a government press release. Robbery, burglary, serious assault, theft, criminal damage, triad gang-related offenses and youth crimes all fell as deception, blackmail, serious drug offenses and homicide rose, he said.

Hong Kong’s crime rate of 1,015 per 100,000 people was higher than Singapore’s 584 and lower than Tokyo’s 1,387, New York’s 2,361, London’s 9,500 and Paris’s 10,455. Homicides doubled to 62 in 2013 from 27 in 2012 due to the October 2012 Lamma Island ferry collision that resulted in the two captains being charged with 39 counts of manslaughter in April.

Blackmail offenses rose to 733 from 293 in 2012 on an increase in “naked chat” cases, which involve people demanding pay from victims they have recorded in compromising positions on social media. Police received 477 such complaints in 2013, up from 60 in 2012. The victims were mainly male and had losses of as much as HK$90,000 ($11,592).

“A majority of the fraudsters looked like non-ethnic Chinese and most of the money cheated was remitted to the Philippines,” the government said in a statement.

Robbery fell 19 percent to 500 cases in 2013, the fewest since 1969. No robbery with a genuine firearm was reported last year. Rape cases fell 13 percent to 105 and indecent assault cases fell 2 percent to 1,463.

The commissioner’s operational priorities for 2014 include violent crime, triad gangs, syndicated and organized crime, dangerous drugs, quick cash crime, cyber security and technology crime, public safety, and terrorism, Tsang said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Eleni Himaras in Hong Kong at ehimaras@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Andrew Davis at abdavis@bloomberg.net

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