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Collins fudging crime stats?

Written By: - Date published: 11:00 am, May 2nd, 2011 - 10 comments
Categories: crime, making shit up - Tags:

Police Minister Judith Collins’ announcement that crime dropped last year left more than a few people scratching their heads. The economic conditions, especially high unemployment, should mean more crime, not less. Now, we’re starting to learn the answer: procedural changes that have wiped thousands of crimes off the stats.

Officially, there were 25,000 fewer crimes last year than in 2009. But it turns out that entire drop can be accounted for by reductions in the numbers of just 35 of the 837 offences. In fact, just 7 offences (all fraud or ‘offence against justice’ offences) that, between them, make up 3% of all crimes made up 21% of the reduction in crime:

2009 2010 change
Take/Obtain/Use Doc for Pecuniary Advantage 5070 3602 -1468
Failure To Answer District Court Bail 5574 4309 -1265
Take/Obtain/Use Cred/Bank Crd To Pecuniary Advantage 2795 1779 -1016
Obtain By Deception (Under $500) 1812 1160 -652
Failure To Answer Police Bail 1612 1143 -469
Other Miscellaneous Offences Against Justice 1386 933 -453
Total Offences 451405 426345 -25060

Each of these offences had mysterious drops of between 23% and 36% in a single year.

The Sunday-Star Times has details on why this happened. The fraud cases went down because:

Previously, a fraudster who made 30 transactions on a stolen credit card would face 30 charges, but now he or she would face only one, with all the counts listed in an attached schedule.

while offences against justice fell because

as of early last year, those on bail were no longer required to report to police.

and

many breaches of bail, such as curfew violations, were formerly recorded as offences when they should have been recorded as “incidents”. Education of frontline staff was resolving that.

It’s easy to make the crime rate drop – just stop charging people with offences.

Sure, sometimes practices change – like in 2005 when a new computer system caused recorded offences to jump 8% – but it’s dishonest to claim, as Collins has, that the result of a change in the way crime is measured is actually a change in crime levels.

National’s claim to have reduced crime (at least compared to the rise in their first year) is a bit like their claim to have increased Kiwi incomes. They can throw all the distorted statistics that they like at us but we all know the truth from our everyday experience. This country is going backwards under National.

I wonder which other classes of offence have been similarly interfered with to make the stats look better. And I wonder what involvement Collins had in those decisions.

PS. Any cars crushed yet, Crusher?

10 comments on “Collins fudging crime stats?”

  1. ghostwhowalksnz 1

    as well I seem to remember that the police themselves are now collating the data instead of an independent source.
    newspaper reports in Australia find the stats section of the police are routinely asked to ‘change’ the numbers for local cops who want to make their ‘patch’ not look so bad.

  2. Statistics ought to be valuable information that assist us in working out what is happening. In the hands of Collins they are a crude weapon to be used to club her opponents no matter how inaccurate they are.

    • todd 2.1

      It’s a travesty that National have used various means to hoodwink the public into believing they’re doing their jobs. I suspect that the media will give this information little coverage and thus leave many believing the crime rate has fallen. This is clearly a debate the Natz will not like to have.

      We’ve seen similar untruthful reporting with the cost of living and inflation debate. It’s not only that National are trying to make themselves clean again after their bloody rampage against the people, they’re using untruthful mechanisms that will ultimately damage New Zealands ability to heal itself in the future.

      The problem with Collins welding an inaccurate club around is not in her imprecision… It’s that Phil Goff is standing still in a media quagmire, going “here I am, come and get me.” We can only hope that the crusher and crew will knock themselves out in their blinding anticipation of a second term in Government.

      • M 2.1.1

        I’ve seen the flick ‘Freakonomics’ and it showed how sometimes things appear to be linked and sometimes how statistical results can be misused, one of the vignettes being about crime in the New York.

        Rudy Giuliani tried to claim that the dramatic drop in crime was due to the fantastic efforts of focusing on petty crime, better policing etc. Steven Levitt posited that it was Roe vs Wade that had led to a drop in crime given that if children were not born to mothers who did not want them would not grow up knowing they were unwanted, neglected and living in less than ideal circumstances, so therefore at the time they would be making their forays into the criminal world they simply wouldn’t be there. He was not making an argument for or against abortion but pointing out that there could be a link.

        • Campbell Larsen 2.1.1.1

          @M – the puzzling thing is that the stats haven’t really been used for anything – other than to alert the MSM to the fact that the govt had changed the methodology of charging criminals and collecting the data – Collins’ said it was a temporary decrease, ostensibly so funding for the Dept of Justice could be maintained or increased – but it was really like saying ‘hey look over here, we are fudging the numbers, please someone pick up on it’

          Fiddling the stats was lame but given the clumsy attempt I doubt it was the end game.

          People are finding it more and more difficult just to live, our govt like so many has fingered the GFC as the reason, NZ’ers don’t want to focus on a side issue like crime nearly as much as we want to address the problems that are apparently to blame for all our woes.

          I’m sure National would love for people to be debating this distraction more but we all have bigger fish to fry.

  3. Jum 3

    I know I often say that NAct will stop at nothing to regain power in 2011-14, but the bottomless pit they are sinking into is surprising even me!

  4. Campbell Larsen 4

    There is no denying that something strange is going on here – the question as to what exactly is not yet clear.

    Why manipulate the stats so blatantly?
    How come the Herald picked up on it even before the stats were used for political milage?
    Is this just an around about way to get law and order debated? If it is the alternate media that comes out and says ‘crime is on the rise’ then we still end up talking about a side issue, rather than the reason why, ie poverty and income inequality.
    Do the Nats have more to gain from saying that th

  5. many breaches of bail, such as curfew violations, were formerly recorded as offences when they should have been recorded as “incidents”. Education of frontline staff was resolving that.

    It’s easy to make the crime rate drop – just stop charging people with offences

    As well they bloody should in many situations, including minor breaches of bail or parole. Missing an appointment with your parole officer (unless you were busy committing a crime at the time) ought not to be an offence. Getting home late from a mate’s place because you wanted to see how the movie ended, thus breaching youyr bail curfew, ought not to be an offence.

    Previously they were considered as such; now they’re not. Good job, I say.

    Similarly with the nonsense of multiple charges around what was really the one incident. I steal a chequebook which happens to have 30 cheques and use them all, I get 30 charges; you pinch one with only 10 left so you get 10 charges. We both committed the same crime – any difference in extent, intent or anything else can be dealt with at sentencing.

    Over-charging by the police to make an accused person look like a serial offender when in fact they were no such thing is a major pain in the ass when trying to defend people, specially in a busy Magistrate’s court where the judge pretty much notices only the headlines, specially in a guilty plea.

    I’d expect Collins to be fudging the figures up to justify further eroding our freedoms to protect us from the lawless society in which we supposedly live.

    While undoubtedly she’s milking these changes for political advantage (and what Minister wouldn’t?) the changes they reflect are actually positive.

    And provided any journalist reporting them does the perfunctory analysis necessary (and let’s face it, if the Sunday Star Times fails to take something at face value then the actual facts must be astoundingly obvious) then Collins’ posturing is shown for what it is.

  6. marsman 6

    Crooked Collins?

  7. Sean 7

    It’s like they watched The Wire for lessons in “dukin’ the stats”.

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