The spin on crime statistics

p2305-Facebook-1By ERWIN CHLANDA

 

The Giles Government wants to be judged by its performance in the fight against crime. However, the process by which this assessment is made is far from credible because the government itself has complete control over it. This is how it works.

 

What the government calls “crime statistics” are released monthly. Those that show a decrease (if any) become the stuff of relentless government propaganda.

 

But these statistics have a major flaw. They are solely based on data provided by the very people whose job it is to fight crime, and whose performance is gauged by its rise or fall: The police.

 

The monthly stats are prepared by the Department of the Attorney-General and Justice “using data recorded by the Northern Territory Police”.

 

At the bottom of the tables published by the department it is clearly stated: “Data extracted from PROMIS” and the relevant date.

 

“PROMIS” stands for Police Real Time Online Management Information System.

 

When you report something to the police you may get a PROMIS number which means the event is in the system.

 

But there are occasions, at the sole discretion of the police, when a reported event is not entered into PROMIS.

 

These may include the police haven’t got time to deal with a reported event because they are busy elsewhere. Or they may not think it worth dealing with a complaint:┬ásometimes complainants get told “take civil action”.

 

Also, someone may have given up reporting offences to the police because of sheer frustration with our legal system: “The offender would just get a slap on the wrist,” is a comment heard often.

 

Police have told the Alice Springs News Online that they will not release statistics to us but referred us to the justice department. So the public has to rely on anecdotal evidence when dealing with these issues.

 

p2305-Facebook-2In a nutshell, there appears to be no independent review of the facts on which Territory voters are urged to rely at election time.

 

The next problem is that the government’s “crime statistics” are really statistics of numbers of police investigations, because a crime is not a crime until a court has determined it to be one.

 

The government’s published “crime statistics” do not disclose how many people have been convicted for crimes and anyone wanting to know those details would have to engage in perusal of court records.

 

Police media releases give little idea about the volume of crime. For example, in Alice Springs, between December 20 and January 14 there were just six media releases about property offences.

 

In December 2014 (2015 isn’t available yet) there were 298 property offences in Alice Springs, according to the Northern Territory Crime Statistics.

 

IMAGES: Part of the the thread on a popular local Facebook site after a break-in last week, including the initial positing (we have that person’s permission to refer to it in this report), and two responses to it.

 

 

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3 Comments (starting with the most recent)

NB: If you want to reply to a previous comment, start your comment with this notation: @n where n is the number of the comment you want to reply to.
  1. Posted January 21, 2016 at 5:58 pm

    The NT should follow the lead of NSW, where the Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research (BOCSAR), led by respected criminologist Dr Don Weatherburn, provides a credible and impressive service to the community: http://www.bocsar.nsw.gov.au/
    Both BOCSAR and the NT Criminal Justice Research and Statistics Unit are based in their respective Departments of Justice, but unlike BOCSAR, it appears that the NT Unit has never been provided with the resources, or the independence, to establish the credibility that its NSW counterpart has.
    The latest figures (thanks for the link, Physics Bill!) are disturbing for at least two reasons.
    Firstly, they are in stark and unexplained contrast to the repeated media statements in 2015 that there has been a dramatic reduction in violent crime in Alice Springs.
    Secondly (thanks again, Physics Bill!), they remind us of the appalling levels of violence in our community.
    Our rates of property offending per capita are broadly on a par with those in the USA, but our violent offending rates are many times higher.
    It’s good that the Alice Springs News is blowing the whistle on the lack of transparency in crime statistics, but your article gives the impression that property offending is the main game in the fight against crime.
    Whether or not that dominates local Facebook pages, it’s certainly not the main game, which is violence, and in particular of course, domestic and family violence.
    Russell Goldflam
    President, Criminal Lawyers Association of the Northern Territory
    White Ribbon Ambassador

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  2. Observer
    Posted January 18, 2016 at 11:26 am

    When reporting property damage recently in a remote community, the police said they prefer not to give a PROMIS number in the case of minor insurance matters.
    I had never heard of anything so absurd, so I went on to demand one out of principle, to ensure the crime is reflected in the data.
    Clearly there is some pressure from somewhere to our front line police to minimize PROMIS numbers.

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  3. Physics Bill
    Posted January 18, 2016 at 10:17 am

    I found an NT police website that reports statistics thru 31/12/15 with a comparison to the prior year. It shows number of house break-ins at 401 in 2014 and 404 in 2015.
    It also shows these numbers expressed as a rate per 100,000.
    First link below is NT Police site. Second link is to wiki entry on US city crimes rates.
    http://www.pfes.nt.gov.au/Police/Community-safety/Northern-Territory-crime-statistics/Alice-Springs.aspx
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_United_States_cities_by_crime_rate_(2014)

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