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Safe & Secure: Going Beyond The Data On Interpreting Crime

WHAT better way to resume our discussion on crime and its prevention than to look at its reporting, and the recent release of police statistics for 2017 in the Bahamas. If you have not seen the report then you are doing yourself and your company a disservice. It is a report card of sorts, and as taxpayers we should want to know the successes and failures the police are experiencing.

But what does it say? What does it all mean? The police crime statistics are essentially a representation of the good, bad and the ugly. This comes on the heels of recent advisories to their citizens by the US and Canadian Governments regarding popular entertainment spots in and around Nassau. As if Nassau is the Bahamas, but that is another story.

Whose report should we believe? Our local 'heroes in blue' or those 'outsiders' who may have a skewed and biased view? Considering that we are the potential victims and sample from whom these numbers are derived, we have to be very careful how we digest what has been represented. Some would say that numbers do not lie, but I would counter and say it is dependent on who is telling the story.

Let's step back and first attempt to get a better understanding of what is being presented. We must contemplate what is known in criminology as the 'Dark Figure of Crime'. Which are those crimes that go unreported, unrecorded or are unknown. We must appreciate that some persons do not have confidence in the police's ability to arrest perpetrators, recover property and resolve disputes. On the other hand, the police inadvertently and/or for expediency do not make arrests for every offense, so there is no documentation of such incidents. Finally, the public and the police do not recognise an event to be criminal. Whatever the reason, these factors exist and do contribute to how crime levels are perceived and presented.

A 2013 study by Cornel University on the difficulties in measuring crime suggests that more than 40 per cent of offenses do not reach the police statistics. This is a large missing piece of the puzzle, which can provide a better snapshot of not just what the police are actually doing but what is happening regarding crime. These omissions can certainly help us in better understanding what is going on as it relates to crime.

A primary concern is the focus on crimes such as murder and rape, which can result in little to no formal recording of what I call 'entry level' events, such as threats that subsequently lead to more aggressive actions like assault and sexual harassment. Crimes such as these give a deeper perspective on what type of environments are facilitating violence, such as murder and rape.

In comparison, the Uniform Crime Report, which is presented by the US FBI, reports assaults along with murder and rape events. When using the numbers for 2017, we see that assaults occur almost 47 times more than murders. And, further to this point, the US Department of Justice in the 2012 National Victimisation Survey suggests that more than 52 per cent of violent crimes are not reported. These incidents cost the public and private sector more, as employees survive these encounters but will require time off from work, increased insurance premiums, medical treatment and rehabilitation.

But how do these crime reporting issues impact initiatives, and are they even taken into consideration? How does the lack of interpreted results impact anti-crime improvements and corrective action?

Consider the following;

  1. The numbers presented suggest that police acted or responded to some system failure. In other words, the actions or inaction of victims generated these numbers. The question here is what went wrong? Then, what should be asked, is what can we do to reduce the exposure?

  2. Why would persons or businesses not report crime or loss events? How does this failure to report impact our outlook and actions?

  3. How much is actually spent on crime response; from the preventative strategy to response and recovery programmes?

  4. Better decisions regarding the development and management of preventative strategy can be made, and the appropriate resources allocated.

  5. What role do you have as a private citizen or business owner in reducing your exposure to violent and property crime?

These factors should be considered in developing not only crime management strategies, but also in how the police force assesses it and improves internal operations. I would also recommend an annual review by an independent body, such as the University of the Bahamas or the Department of Statistics, on victimisation. I think the results when compared against police reporting will go a long way towards making our management of crime more efficient and effective.

NB: Gamal Newry specialises in loss prevention and asset protection strategy development and implementation; business security reviews and audits; and emergency and crisis management. The views, comments, and opinions contained in this article are solely those of the writer and do not represent in any way any employer, business, organisation, group, committee, or individual. Comments and inquiries can be sent to PO Box N-3154 Nassau, Bahamas, or email gnewry@gmail.com

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