Tired of the meaningless crime stats

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Dear Editor

I am a bit weary of listening and watching Regional Police Commanders on the programme, ”  Police and You, ” giving accounts of their stewardship and positing figures of certain catagories of reported serious crimes and traffic accidents to indicate how well their divisions are performing. These figures presented so far give the perception that reported serious crimes and traffic accidents are on the decrease. However, the reality is that although the stats show that certain serious crimes have decreased others have spiked and that overall crime and traffic accidents rates are too high, although it is challenging to draw the baseline. One commander boasted that he had a 100% decrease in murder. The simple fact is that there was one reported case of murder last year while none was documented this year. Hence 100% decrease in murder. Wow! Ask any Regional Commander to evaluate the performance of his/her division. The automatic response will be that there was a minus or plus in certain catagories of reported serious crimes and accidents. Assistant Commissioner Simon McBean, Commander Region Police Division 4c was sincere when he said that if there is one reported serious crime, it is one too many.

There is also the dark figures in crime, that is crimes not reported to the police for diverse reasons including the belief of victims that the police will be unable to solve the crimes. In addition, there is the possibility of ‘ghosting’ , that is falsifying patrol logs to ‘ make numbers come out right.’

Wayne W. Benette and Karen H. Hess in their book Management and Supervision in Law

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Enforcement, explained that many people tend to use crime rates, number of arrest and case clearance rates to measure how the police are doing. They suggest that such measures have several problems: Low crime rates does not necessarily mean a police agency is efficient and effective; A high arrest rate does not necessarily show that the police are doing a good job; A high ratio of police officers to citizens does not necessarily mean high-quality police service; Responding quickly to calls for service does not necessarily indicate that a police agency is efficient.

Kramer and Fielder (2000) summarize the problem aptly, ” Traditional measures, such as Uniform Crime Reports….. arrests and tickets tabulate only events. They do not measure whether the activities were completed effectively or efficiently, and they don’t describe what impact the activities had on the community.” They explained that rather than looking at crime rates, number of arrests and response time, evaluation should assess whether or not the police are fulfilling their responsibilities to the communities they swore to serve and protect.

While evaluatng the effeciency, effectiveness and productivy of the Force, leaders must focus heavily on their mission statement. Here is the police mission statement, ” The mission of the Guyana Police Force and its auxiliaries is to serve all citizens and communities in a professional and accountable manner. To achieve this we will work in partnership with communities, public agencies and private bodies to enhance and support an environment where all people are preventing crime and building a safer and secure Guyana. ” A mission statement must be specefic, measurable, achieveable, realistic and timely ( SMART ). This mission statement is not achieveable and realistic in part. All people cannot be involved in preventing crime and building a safer and secure Guyana. It is utopia.

On July 01, 2021, in his address to the police at their Drum-Head Service at Eve leary to mark the Guyana Police Force 182nd Anniversary, Reverend Dr. MURTLAND Raphael Massiah posited, ” if you do not understand your mission, you will not be able to achieve the level of success that you set up or those who plan and organise the programme have determined. Leaders not only have a keen sense of mission, but leaders must leverage the power. ” He further advised them to ensure that they not only seek advice, or work based on the advise of their advisors, but that they must also take the time to ensure that they do their own research to gather what the public expects of them and how their performance can be improved. The police have many bright university graduates, some with multiple degrees who they can utilise to pick up the challenge issued by a man of God and do research to measure their performance and come up with strategic plans for the future, instead of banishing them to the Covid 19 Secretariat, the Civil Defence Commission and elsewhere to count the number of persons who died from Covid 19 or are affected with the disease, to engage in flood watch at the CDC and to watch over non-existent projects. During the early part of the year the Ministry of Home Affairs announced that it was embarking on a online survey to find out how well the police were performing. Hoping that the Covid 19 did not kill it or that it was not washed away by the floods. I am still hoping that the results of that survey will be made public. If properly done it should be instructive.

Citizens survey is critical to measure the performance of the police, not just looking at percentage increase or decrease in specified reported serious crimes. The police must consider what citizens want and expect of their protectors as alluded to above by Reverend Dr. Murtland Raphael Massiah. Most citizens want to live in safe orderly neighbourhood. The police are considered effective when they produce the perception that crime is under control. Reduction of the fear of crime is a very important measure.

Citizens approval or disapproval is generally reflected in letters of criticism or commendation, support for proposed police programmes, cooperation with incidents being investigated, letters to the editor, public reaction to a single police citizen incident or response to police-initiated survey.

One way to assess citizen approval or disapproval

is through citizen surveys which can measure trends and provide positive and negative feedback on the public’s impression of the police. It is a win- win situation. Citizens are better served and police receive positive feedback. Community surveys can also be key in establishing communication. Surveys can help set organisation goals and priorties, identify departments strenghts and weaknesses, identify area of improvement and needed training and influence ranks to be motivated.

Yours respectfully

Clinton Conway



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