It was first in April 1998 that the Home Office introduced a methodical recorded system when it came to counting and recording crime statistics . Beforehand the statistic results gathered would not have been part of official figures and therefore would have been lost in translation and not reliable to be used as a data source for what crime was occurring across society. Throughout the years, the Department of Justice (DoJ) has been releasing these statistic reports bi-annually (Spring and Autumn), which have been explained in a user-friendly and non-technical manner, for public access, to indicate the continuous commitment to improve and develop the Criminal Justice System (CJS) in Northern Ireland. However, this being said, every year, there are thousands of crimes not being reported and recorded, whether it be through incorrect recording done by the police, or victims not reporting crimes due to fear or the negative social attitudes they may encounter.
In this essay the reliability of police statistics will be examined including whether or not they are a true indicator of how much crime is committed in society and lastly if they have the correct indications as to who are committing these crimes.
Police Statistics and the Media
What are police statistics? What and how are they used?
Official crime statistics are reports that are produced by what is reported to the police, and then what is processed through the Criminal Justice System (CJS). The data is gathered and produced by statisticians from the Northern Ireland and Research Agency (NISRA) . These finalised official reports show the number of crimes com. The crimes are divided into relevant categories to make it easier for understanding trends that may occur and for easier public understanding. The categories used are the following (taken from the official DoJ Digest of Information on the Northern Ireland Criminal Justice System but categories may vary slightly):
Table 1: Crime categories with brief descriptions
Crimes against the person It can include an array of offences such as harassment and grievous bodily harm.
Burglary This can be either theft, or attempted theft within a premises where common access is not authorised. Evidence of damage and theft attempt will also be classified as burglary.
Theft This is theft from an individual, vehicle, property, bikes, etc. The transportation and resale of stolen acquirements are also classed as theft.
Offenses against the State These are crimes against the state such as treason or acts of terrorism. Those committing offenses involving classified secrets are also committing offenses against the state.
Other This is a broad category of offenses not covered in other categories such as hate crime (in some countries) and weapon related offenses.
Sexual Offenses There is a broad category of sexual offenses including Indecent Assault and Unlawful (under age) Sexual Intercourse, Rape and Sexual Assault.
Robbery In order to be classifies as Robbery, there has to be force used (or threatened to use) to enter a premises being it personal or commercial.
Criminal Damage Criminal damage differentiates from other offenses such as burglary or robbery in that they are intentionally destroying property yes, but in this case they do not necessarily do so to gain access.
Fraud and Forgery Fraud is (usually) gaining money through the intentional deception of an individual or company. Forgery differs in that it is the action of creating a replica of something else with the intention of deception.
If police reporting and recording go through such thorough rules before being made public, then why are there still questions regarding its reliability? Even though these reports are public and of free access to the public, not everyone gets their figures from the official reports released. Media plays a huge factor in terms of information reaching individuals.