"More and more, criminals are being attracted by this phenomenon, and racketeering is on the rise," Khramov, deputy chairman of a Moscow city commission on protecting citizens' rights, said in an interview.
Tsoi also said criminals were loose in Tent City, but she blamed the KGB and Soviet police, who she said wanted to silence critics of the Soviet system. She showed her palms, both of which were slashed when a man attacked her with a knife for no apparent reason one night this month.
According to Khramov, Moscow's progressive government has taken steps to assist Tsoi and her neighbors. Two weeks ago, he and other deputies went to meet four representatives of the "tent people," who cheekily demanded that they be allocated a proper headquarters, complete with telephone, fax machine and bank account.
Moscow's city council did not agree to that request, but Khramov said that, at the suggestion of city prosecutor Gennady S. Ponomarev, a special group of prosecutors and Interior Minister officials has been sent to Tent City to see if the claims of its residents have merit.
The existence of Tent City, the tabloid weekly Arguments and Facts wrote recently, is graphic proof of how much remains to be changed in Soviet political life.
"We are not taking it on ourselves to judge how founded the demands are of specific people living today by the walls of the Kremlin," it said. "But their desperate act of protest once again shows that in our country much must still be done to develop an effective mechanism for the defense of individual rights and the construction of a state truly based on law."
A blond 10-year-old from the Ukraine, playing in an afternoon shower while waiting for his unemployed mother to return to Tent City, expressed the same idea in fewer words. Around his neck, he wore a sign that said, "We came to look for the truth in Moscow, but we haven't found it yet."