Police and ISS at odds about the crime stats

issISS governance, crime and justice division head Gareth Newham said the crime statistics the police released in September contained a miscalculation, and that they were downplaying the rate of violent crime.

The police and the Institute for Security Studies (ISS) were at odds about the latest crime statistics and how they were calculated on Wednesday.

ISS governance, crime and justice division head Gareth Newham said the crime statistics the police released in September contained a miscalculation, and that they were downplaying the rate of violent crime.

“The statistics presented by the police underplay the shocking reality of crime, especially the most traumatising acts of crimes. People are not safe in the streets, in their homes, cars and their businesses,” he said.

Newham said the police had used population estimates calculated by Statistics SA in 2001, which expected the population to be 50.6 million in 2011, instead of using data from the 2011 census, which showed there were 52.3 million people in South Africa.

By not updating the population, the police had understated the increase in serious and violent crimes, Newham said.

However, the offices of both the police ministry and the national police commissioner dismissed the criticism.

“As the ministry of police, we dismiss [the] ISS’s flawed argument that the statistics are not reflective of the crime situation in the country. We stand by our statistics entirely,” said spokesman Zweli Mnisi.

“We did not thumb-suck the population growth and ratio, because in our calculation of all crime categories, we are informed by Statistics SA’s census.”

The police would not announce incorrect statistics, he said.

Newham said crimes such as murders were calculated against a population of 100,000.

The crime statistics released in September indicated that the murder rate was 0.6 percent, while the corrected figure was 2.6 percent.

“Sexual offences according to the police went down to 0.4 percent. The corrected calculation places such crimes at 1.5 percent.”

Attempted murder went up to 8.7 percent, instead of the 6.5 percent presented by the police.

National police commissioner Riah Phiyega’s spokesman Lt-Gen Solomon Makgale said the argument by the ISS was “not true at all”.

“This false statement has also been interpreted by certain media houses to mean that crime statistics of the past two financial years cannot be trusted. Such interpretation is equally untrue,” Makgale said in a statement.

“The raw data, which is actual cases reported, is not based on population figures. Therefore one cannot conclude that the overall crime statistics should not be trusted.”

He said the argument by the ISS served only to confuse people.

“The 2011/12 crime ratios were based on a population estimate of 50.6 million. Stats SA released the 2011 Census results in October 2012. It showed the actual population of 2011 as 51.7 million,” he said.

“Based on the formula used by Stats SA, the re-stated, estimated population for 2011 was shown to be 51.6 million. The argument is that we should have used these re-stated, estimated figures.”

He said that would have required them to adjust the 2011/12 crime ratios and, based on their approach, this was not necessary.

The police would apply the new population estimates, based on the 2011 Census results, only from the 2012/13 financial period onwards, Makgale said.

The ISS said it had called for a formal independent inquiry into why the trends were miscalculated. The miscalculation was more pronounced when it came to determining crime trends at a provincial level, it said.

Mnisi said the department rejected this call.

“The ISS is not the only crime analysing institute in the country. They are not the alpha and omega. There is a pool of various analysts who continue to give sound analyses,” Mnisi said.

“This call for a independent inquiry is not new…. What we have seen of late from ISS are rhetorical statements which tend to be political in nature and we believe this is not the space they should be occupying.” – Sapa