The number of people from the Baltic country arrested for crimes ranging from drink-driving to murder has shot up since the expansion of the EU in 2004.

In 2003, just 151 Lithuanians were arrested, and 188 the following year, figures obtained under the Freedom of Information Act show.

But in 2005 the number more than tripled with 662 arrests as the influx of migrants from countries in the expanded EU got going.

Then in 2006, more than 901 people from the former Soviet bloc country were arrested by the Cambridgeshire force.

Figures for 2007 only cover June to August, when 91 Lithuanians were arrested.

The news comes as it has been revealed that Romanians are behind a £1 billion crime spree in the UK.

Andrejus Piliavecas, director of Lithuania’s Centre for Crime Prevention, spoke to the News from Vilnius about the rise.

He said: “The crime rate in Lithuania is not very high and is about average with other EU countries. The reason you are seeing an increase in Lithuanians committing crimes in Cambridgeshire is because many young people leave school and go to England to get a job where they can earn five times as much.

“But many cannot speak English and can’t find the job they expected so they commit illegal acts to get money.

Another reason is the people who started their life of crime in Lithuania are too well known to the police here so they go to places like Spain, the Nordic countries and England to carry on there.

“Lithuania is only a country of three and a half million people so once you are known to the police it is harder to get away and the police here have got better in the last few years at catching criminals.”

The shock figures add more weight to Cambridgeshire Chief Constable Julie Spence’s continuing campaign for an extra £2 million to pay for 100 more officers.

A police spokeswoman said she will be meeting Police Minister Tony McNulty in early February.

A decade ago it would be rare to see names like Dainus Kigas in the pages of the News.

The Lithuanian was burnt to death when someone threw a petrol bomb into his van while he slept in it by a roadside in Wisbech in June last year.

His death, believed to be the result of a feud within the Lithuanian community, highlighted the growing international dimension to crime in a county that has absorbed 50 per cent of the migrant population in the East of England.

Organised criminals from Eastern Europe are also thought to be behind the upsurge in human trafficking and prostitution.

And some new arrivals have been carrying knives because they were used to doing so in their native countries. Many drink and drive because they can get away with it more easily at home.

Lithuanians top Cambridgeshire’s drink-drive shame list, as the News revealed this month. They have clocked up an ll-fold rise in alcohol-related crime since 2002.

Linus Pekarskas, a Lithuanian community support officer with Cambridgeshire police, said: “There is a problem with a lot of people from Eastern European countries drinking and driving. It is just a different culture.”

Mrs Spence said immigrant communities from the new EU states had “different standards” from the UK. She said: “We can identify a significant rise in drink-drive, which was down to people thinking that what they did where they came from, they could do here.”

Mrs Spence also said “feuds” between rival foreign gangs added to the cost of dealing with crime.

And in November Lithuanian woman Daiva Hammond, of Minerva Way, was convicted of shouting and taking a swing at an ambulance woman before pushing her and slapping her face.

Hammond had been drinking.

The number of crimes committed by Lithuanians and other migrants prompted Mrs Spence to meet the country’s ambassador Vygaudas Usackas last October.

Mr Usackas said: “We all clearly have a great deal of work to do to ensure closer relations and a harmonious existence moving forward.”

Arrests of Poles have also risen dramatically, with 477 in 2006.

Gangs of Romanians are behind a £1 billion crime wave in Britain. The number of crimes they committed since Romania joined the EU a year ago has surged by 530 per cent. The gangs smuggle in children and use them as pickpockets. Dozens of them were freed by police in dawn raids in Slough on Thursday.

In Cambridgeshire, however, the number of Romanians arrested in 2006 was just 12 – a fraction of the 901 Lithuanians.

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