Last Wednesday a robber murdered the salesperson of a tobacco shop in Kaposvár. The victim, a 21 year old female shop assistant, had offered no resistance and had given the offender the money from the cash register. He then proceeded to stab her five times and slash her throat before making off with HUF 22,000 (USD 82) in cash. The assailant was arrested on Thursday after being identified on the basis of a street video surveillance recording. He has confessed to committing the heinous crime.
Since the government introduced the National Tobacco Shop franchise system in 2012, experts have warned that requiring proprietors to screen tobacco products from the outside renders the shops vulnerable to robbery and burglary.
Kaposvár mayor Károly Szita has since petitioned Mihály Varga, Minister of National Economy to eliminate the provision of the law requiring that tobacco products not be visible from the outside. “Unfortunately, the tragedy cannot be undone, but maybe we can do something to prevent similar crimes in the future” wrote the mayor.
“This rule is not good” law enforcement expert Peter Tarjányi told ATV’s Straight Talk (Egyenes Beszéd). According to Tarjányi if a regulation creates a situation that is dangerous, it should not be introduced in the first place. And if so, it has to be eliminated as soon as possible.
Presently, the shop windows of the tobacco shops are covered by non-transparent foil. According to Tarjányi, this virtually assures robbers of getting away so long as they conceal their identify. He says “political ego” is one of the reasons why the law has not been changed despite numerous reported burglaries and robberies of National Tobacco Shops. “If it is proven in life that a regulation is inadequate, instead of discussing what should be done differently, we initiating a so-called risk analysis” said the expert, saying “this has became a system in Hungary over the past five years.”
In response to János Lázár’s statement to the effect that the police will take the necessary steps if and when they find any connection between the robberies and the fact that the shop windows are not transparent, Tarjányi told ATV that in his opinion “we do not have to ask it and we do not have to wait for police officers.”
The police expert says it is not realistic to expect the Hungarian police to inform Lázár that it was a mistake to cover up tobacco store windows. “In Hungary the system simply does not work like that” says the expert. “The practice of compliance and non-reporting of any bed news is so pervasive within the law enforcement system that no mechanism exists for solving this problem” warned Tarjányi.
The fact that many have called for the elimination of this regulation represents something of a milestone. Also there are examples where the shop owners started to solve the problem on their own, breaking the rules by removing the foil from shop windows in order to protect the lives of the employees. This is precisely what the owner of the shop in Kaposvár did on Saturday after Wednesday’s tragedy.
The Budapest Beacon asked the employees of tobacco shops in Újlipótváros whether they had heard about the tragedy and, if so, whether they feared for their lives. They said they were not afraid but saw no point in covering the shop window with an opaque foil. One of them told us that she had not felt comfortable, especially during the evening hours, when she worked in a National Tobacco Shop in a less busy part of the district.
The windows of both shop were covered with the non-transparent foil.