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Crime—Evaluating the Police Service

Published: 
Sunday, June 10, 2018

In London, scooter gangs wielding hammers, “zombie” knives, machetes, and sledgehammers maim and murder vulnerable people.

A woman sets another woman’s home on fire in Chicago killing her. In Jamaica, MoBay, three knife-wielding women attacked a journalist. In South Africa, a man murdered his entire family for an inheritance.

Here, murders happen daily. One might view reports with skepticism, but the statistics from official agencies in several countries confirm the virulence of violent crimes. Note that violent crimes include murder, rape, robbery, and aggravated assault.

Information from the UK Office of National Statistics shows there was an increase in murders, knife and gun crimes. Knife offences rose 22 per cent to 39,598—recorded offences; firearm offences rose by 11 per cent to 6,604. The number of homicides for the year ended March 2017 was 613—an increase of eight per cent over 2016.

Even Sweden, a country reputed for one of the lowest crime rates in the world, according to the Swedish Police authority in a June 2017 report, “61 communities have become increasingly marred by crime, social unrest and insecurity.”

“Lethal violence using firearms has increased within the context of criminal conflicts.” *

In America, the FBI preliminary report for January-June 2017, indicates that murders increased by 1.5 per cent compared with the same period in 2016, but specific categories of violent crime (ie, rape, robbery, and aggravated assault), decreased marginally.

Chicago, one of America’s most violent cities saw an estimated 16 per cent drop in murders in 2017.

The city recorded 771 homicides.

The population of Chicago is approximately 2.7 million, so preliminarily, the estimated murder rate for 2017 was 385 per million.

*(I singled out Chicago because of its population size for comparison with Jamaica and T&T.) Trinidad with a population of 1.4 million and 495 killings in 2017 was 353 per million people.

Jamaica with a population of 2.9 million had 1,616 murders in 2017 or 529 per million.

In judging our Police Service, the available human, technical, and financial resources, the inefficiency of the judicial system and benchmarking against best practice should be integral to objective assessments of performance. The dysfunctional political system, the inability of successive governments and opposition parties to pass legislation for overhauling the Jurassic recruitment system for police commissioners and the Police Service Commission should inform how we view the Police Service. Comparisons are odious but useful for benchmarking purposes. Our detection rate for all crimes averages 35 per cent. For murders, the average is 19 per cent—source T&T Police Service. The “key findings” of the British Home Office Report On Crime Outcomes in England and Wales ending March 2017 is interesting reading. Police forces closed 48 per cent of all offences with no suspect identified…68 per cent of criminal damage and arson offences were closed with no suspect identified, compared with around one in 20 for rape and drug offences. Police forces charged or summonsed someone for 18 per cent of recorded domestic abuse related offences.

According to the FBI report for 2016, law enforcement agencies cleared by “arrest or exceptional means” 59.4 per cent of murder and non-negligent manslaughter crimes. Using the percentages for all crimes, the average clearance in the US seems to be 33 per cent.

“Clearance” as defined in the FBI report is the percentage of crimes resulting in arrests or cleared by exceptional means. Crime detection by definition is the discovery, suspect identification, and evidence to indict the suspect before a court.

A thorough analysis of all underlying factors allows for objective assessments of police performance. Statistics alone wouldn’t give accurate pictures.

Crime experts often question the efficacy of the detection rate as a reliable performance indicator as it is only one of many critical variables. Assuming statistics are accurate, and considering mitigating and other factors, it is reasonable to question whether objective criteria inform performance evaluations of our Acting Police Commissioner and his team of mostly conscientious officers.

*Note: Country crime rates measured over extended periods give a better picture of trends and in many instances show declines.

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