Sunday, July 22, 2012

Crime Statistics Critical To Improving Perception

The first step to improving the public perception on crime and the public confidence in the Government and the police force is to ensure complete transparency in crime statistics

Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein said today the public’s “perception” of security is more important than the actual crime rate as he attempted to calm growing public scepticism about the government’s persistent claims that incidents of crime had fallen.

“For me, what is most important is not so much even the index; the perception, the feeling of the public is all important,” said the home minister in a press conference.

We would like to highlight to the Minister that any change in perception will not come from “feel good statistics” but from (i) being entirely transparent with crime statistics and (2) ensuring real tangible changes on the ground.

Despite repeated requests in and out of Parliament, the Ministry of Home Affairs has to date refused to divulge detailed statistics on crime broken down by types according to various districts across the country.  What is worse is whatever statistics released by the Government has not only been criticized by the civil society as being “unreal”, they’ve even been discredited by none other than the immediate past Inspector General Police (IGP), Tan Sri Musa Hassan.

The rebuttal by the current IGP Tan Sri Ismail Omar that Tan Sri Musa’s criticisms are his personal opinion holds no water because there is no person more qualified to evaluate if the police statistics are honest or manipulated.

The fear of crime is real and if the police cannot ensure the safety of the public, the public should at least be allowed to take the necessary precautions by knowing which areas are hotspots, and what type of crimes commonly occur.

The Royal Malaysian Police must emulate the professionalism of the United Kingdom Police Force by putting up extremely detailed statistics on crime right down to every street and the type of crime instantly accessible via http://www.Police.uk website.

A simple search on said website shows you the statistics on crime that has occurred in a particular month. It also allows you to search right down to a particular street, with a breakdown of the types of crime. Pins on maps are colour-coded to make it easier for the person to scrutinise what type of crime took place, and where.  A person can track changes in the crime statistics by just selecting the months for comparison purposes.

The breakdown of crime statistics even include types of crime like “anti-social behavior”, “drugs”, “criminal damage and arson” as well as “other crime” like fraud and forgery, which are explicitly excluded from our crime index.

What is even more impressive is the fact that the public can immediately review the performance of the police force in that specific area by reviewing the “outcomes”.  The “outcomes” tab will immediately tell a person the status of all actions taken or being taken by the police at this point of time.  For example, in NW10 Greater London for the month of May 2012, 440 cases are under investigation, 96 suspects have been charged, 47 offenders given caution, 12 defendants found not guilty, 16 offenders sent to prison and so on.

The way to increase the confidence of the public in the Government’s ability to fight crime is not to conceal statistics and releasing only feel good information.  Such opaque behavior immediately gives rise to distrust of the Government especially when their experiences of crime have been anything other than safe.

The way to do it is for the Government to come clean to ensure that Malaysians in every street and every city knows exactly the state of crime in their neighbourhood.  While an excellent system such as that on Police.uk may take some time to be developed and made available to Malaysians, we call upon the Royal Malaysian police to immediately publish all detailed crime statistics on a monthly basis, categorized by types of crime, by month and by districts and make them available for download on any of the Government’s websites.
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