The Crime Statistics Folly

(How safe you are feeling when you are out these days? Sorry, let me rephrase that – how safe you are feeling when you are out these days considering that the statistics shows a lower crime rate? Image source: http://www.pemandu.gov.my)

Do you believe that the crime rates have dropped drastically over the last few months?

No doubt that the police are doing their very best in combating crime (with breakthroughs like this, this, this and this) but it is also clear (if you have read the news in the last few days) that it does not matter if you are an-ex Chief Minister or a Police Chief or just happen to be within the vicinity of the state police headquarters, you can still get screwed by the criminals:-

The house of former Malacca chief minister Tan Sri Abdul Rahim Tamby Chik was broken into by burglars who took away cash and a pistol. All the occupants of the house were out for a wedding in Malacca during last night’s break-in.

At about 9pm, one of Abdul Rahim’s family members came home but he did not notice anything amiss. However, sources said that after taking a shower, he realised that the master bedroom had been ransacked. When the family returned home and checked their belongings, they discovered that several items and valuables were missing.

“Three rooms were ransacked. The burglars took cash, jewellery, valuables and a pistol,” said a family member.

(Source)

And this:-

The multi-purpose vehicle belonging to the Sentul district police chief was found 12 hours after it was stolen at his home in Taman Chandan Puteri here.

Kuala Kangsar district police chief Superintendent Abdul Gaffaar Muhammad said police found Assistant Commissioner Zakaria Pagan’s Toyota Estima at 3pm yesterday in Pasir Puteh, Ipoh. “Zakaria realised his car was missing when he wanted to go and buy breakfast at 8am.”

(Source)

And this:-

A money changer was robbed following a daring heist by a group of armed robbers just opposite the state police headquarters here.

According to a nearby saloon employee, who wanted to be known only as Joyce, 35, the robbers had used two vehicles to carry out the robbery at around 10.15am along Jalan Harimau Tarom on Tuesday.

(Source)

And in recent spate of robbery and attempted abduction in shopping centres against lone women and multi million ATM robberies (damn, we used to deal with Indonesian and Nigerian criminals but now South American and Middle East criminals are getting in the act too), the question now raised is whether we have been looking at the wrong side of the statistics.

Tony Pua of DAP writes:-

We call upon the Government to stop the spin on the crime situation in the country. There is absolutely no question that the people do not feel safe in the streets regardless of the many “feel good” selective statistics the Government has released to the public.

Datuk Idris Jala claimed that “we as in the police (PDRM), Home Ministry (KDN) and Pemandu have been very transparent in acknowledging that there are 157,891 index crime cases reported in 2011”.

However, if the Government is so confident of its crime fighting achievements, why is it refusing to provide detailed statistics by districts (e.g., Petaling Jaya, Klang, Serdang etc.) or by type of crime (e.g., murder, kidnapping, snatch theft, robbery, armed robbery etc.)?

And the same echoed by PKR’s Dr Wan Azizah:-

In 2010, Malaysia’s Special Branch, according to PKR, spent three times more resources spying on its citizens than it has fighting crime. PKR president Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail revealed figures from the 2012 Budget, showing that the police produced 733,237 spy reports and security checks in 2010. In comparison, the number of investigation papers under criminal investigation opened that year was 211,645.

“All in all, the police’s Special Branch produced 733,000 reports on its citizens, spying on roughly 4.3% of the adult population of Malaysia,” said Wan Azizah.

She expressed irony at this, hinting at the rising spate of crime in the country, especially where violence against women was concerned. She said that instead of focusing on crime, the government chose to focus on statistics.

For 2012, the Government has posed the following crime reducing rate and given the recent measures undertaken by the Government in combating crime (like the very assuring Ops Payung especially at commercial areas and more street patrol) and the past results from 2011, I am confident that we can achieve a good part of the said targets (if they are not busy with non-criminal policing work on the oppositions or not being too busy with road blocks & fortification of the Dataran Square for another Bersih-like rally):-

1. Reduce 5% of Crime Index against the year 2011.
2. Reduce 45% of Street Crime Index against the year 2009.
3. Reduce 45% of people who fear of becoming victim of crime.
4. Increase 25% of PDRM charging rate.
5. Increase 65% of public satisfaction on police services.

(Source)

But then again, statistics are at the best is just an indicator and not necessarily reflect the actual crime rate as the computation of the reduction in crime rate is also dependant on other factors like the increase of the population overall and by types and severity of the criminal act. The reliance of statistics alone gets worse if the statistics are manipulated to show better rates as this finding on NYP’s crime statistics shows:-

An anonymous survey of nearly 2,000 retired officers found that the manipulation of crime reports — downgrading crimes to lesser offenses and discouraging victims from filing complaints to make crime statistics look better — has long been part of the culture of the New York Police Department.

The results showed that pressure on officers to artificially reduce crime rates, while simultaneously increasing summonses and the number of people stopped and often frisked on the street, has intensified in the last decade, the two criminologists who conducted the research said in interviews this week. Mr. Browne said the summary’s conclusions drew on respondents’ perceptions, which were not supported by the facts.

According to the summary, for example, a majority of respondents indicated that they lacked confidence in the accuracy of the Police Department’s crime statistics, which reflect an 80 percent drop in major crimes since 1990. Many of the retired officers who participated in the survey said they believed crime had declined since 1990, but “not to the extent claimed by N.Y.P.D. management,” the summary said.

(Source)

As I said, statistics are at the best is just an indicator. There is no point praising the statistics if petty theft crime rate had decreased but armed robbery crime have increased at the same time (Tony Pua’s contention that the current statistics does not detailed statistics by districts or by type of crime) and if the necessary follow-up action have been done. The Government no doubt must continue to evaluate the measures already taken to bring down the crime rate (even though the statistics may show good figures) – what works must be continued with more vigour, commitment and frequency and what does not work should be shelved and replaced something more effective.

We have commenced the biometric registration for the foreign workers but how effective it is considering that we continue to have criminals in disguise of students from Nigeria (“students” from Iran is another time-bomb waiting to blow – just wait and see) to continue to come over to this country to create trouble and commit crime (although the authorities have closed the gap) and now having South American & Middle Eastern criminals doing high profiled crimes in the country – how long it is going to be before things gets worse and foreign criminals start running the show in this country?

And have we started to look into the legal loopholes and stiffer punishment for the repeated hard-core criminals? How many of them have come out and committed the same crime, perhaps with fatal consequences?

Someone who I know was robbed just a couple days and when talking to the policemen who were very helpful, understanding and determined to solve the case, we heard the sheer frustration from the men in blue. They lament on how they put in the hours (on top of other cases to be solved with pressure from the top, the politicians and the public) and pull in the resources to catch the criminals only to see these criminals back on the streets (committing more crimes) due to loopholes in the law and legal procedures. And when some people die in the act of pursuit and arrest, the police are often blamed as being too aggressive and trigger happy whilst the common criminals elevated to a hero status (read Durai’s excellent “Funeral of a Macha” post for a take on this).

And since we are very concerned on the trend and ease of foreigners (who according to the police are professionals) committing crimes in this country, we should re-look into how the current law addresses crimes committed by these foreign criminals. Just like how foreigners have to pay more for health services and petrol in this country, I think they should “pay” more for their crimes as well. The prison terms or the number of whipping that is provided under the normal law should, automatically and mandatory, be doubled (or tripled) if the criminal charged is a foreigner (of course in due time, high penalty should apply for all criminals – local or foreign).

At the end of the day, we just want to be safe, not only for the citizen of this country but also for foreigners who are here on legitimate reasons but at the same time, the law of this country and the enforcement of it should be so severe and swift that the last thing anyone want to do in the country is to commit crime.

Read these too:-

Hishamuddin Sleeping On The Job

Defenders of traffic criminals vs our fight against crime

Drug Traffickers And Criminals. Is Malaysia A Magnet ?

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