The police crime stats have more variants than Covid-19

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Dear Editor

I am again getting wary of reading and listening to the print and electronic media about the police and the Ministry of Home Affairs presenting crime statistic to create the impression that reported serious crimes are on the decrease and that crime is under control.

I had previously written about this, but recent public release of crime figures has caused me to hit the keyboard again and to introduce some new concepts. The latest presentation was propagated by the Minister of Home Affairs at a handing over ceremony at, of all place, Palm Court. At that location Top Cop, Nigel Hoppie received two Peugeot 308 motor cars from the Palm Court Group of Companies. On that occasion the Minister of Home Affairs boasted, “Serious crimes are down by 20 percent as compared with the same period 2020. We did have it down by 30 percent, but there have been jumps over the last six weeks or so but you may note that we are having success in terms of solving some of those and we are trying to solve some of the more serious ones.” Ask any Regional Police Commander for a performance appraisal of his division and you will get the classic answer that there is a minus or plus reports in serious crimes and traffic accidents.

It leaves one with the clear impression that generally the police and others are using crime rates, number of arrests and case clearance rates to measure how the police are performing. Such measures do not indicate whether or not the activities were completed efficiently and effectively and they do not describe what impact the activity had on the community. The reality is that although they are decreases in certain categories of serious crimes others have spiked. Where is the base line? Crime is too high and there is the perpetual fear of crime. Minor crimes are increasing.

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An analysis of the police crime stats would indicate that it has more variants than the deadly Covid 19 pandemic. The police are only examining 10 categories of serious crimes. This method of analysis was implemented and made popular by Commissioner Laurie Lewis in 1990. Since then not a single category of crime was added to or deleted from the list. It remained prestine for over 30 years, despite the fact that new trends of crime and crime fighting strategies and tactics emerged. The possibility of “Ghosting,” falsifying patrols logs, might occur to ” make the numbers come out right. ” in addition, there is the ” dark figures of crime. ” That is, crime not reported for diverse reasons. I can vividly recall Laurie Lewis directing his Divisional Commanders and the Head of the Criminal Investigation Department to not only look at percentage increase or decrease of serious crimes but to do deeper analysis, including asking; Is it a trend? Is it a pattern? Is it a series? Is it a spree? Is the location a hot spot; He also urged not to neglect minor crimes. President, David Granger in his maiden address to the Guyana Police Force Annual Officers’ Conference admonished the police thus, ” Stop boasting about how many cases you made, find out how many causes you are able to discover, and let us stomp out the causes, then you stomp out the crime. If you don’t know the causes, then the crime will continue to be repeated over and over again.”

Rather than looking at crime rates, number of arrest and response time, evaluation should assess whether or not the police are effective in fulfilling their responsibility to the community. Leaders must focus on their mission statement. They must consider what citizens want and expect from their protectors. Most citizens want to live in safe, orderly neighbourhoods. The police are considered effective when they produce the perception that crime is under control. Reducing of fear of crime is a very important measure.

Space does not permit me to go into details about the police mission statement. Suffice to say that its main theme is working in partnerships with the various stakeholders for a safer Guyana. This fits nicely into some of the fundamental principles in which the police force rested as set forth by Sir Robert Peel, often called the ” Father of Modern Policing. ” They are: The duty of the police is to prevent crime and disorder; The power of the police to fulfill those duties is depended on the public approval and their ability to serve and maintain public respect: The police should strive to maintain a relationship with the public that gives reality to the tradition that the public are the police and the police are the public; The test of police effectiveness is the absence of crime and disorder, not the visible evidence of police activity in dealing with these problems.

In many ways the GPF is modeled after the London Metropolitan Police.

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

An excellent 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 also sends a message to the citizens that the police are addressing their fear of crime and neighbourhood disorder. Community surveys are often win-win situation. Citizen surveys might also help set organisational goals and priorities, department strengths and weaknesses, identify areas of improvement and needed training and influence the motivation of employees. Citizens are better served and officers received feedback. Community surveys can also be key in establishing and maintaining effective communication.

During the earlier part of this year the Ministry of Home Affairs announced that it was conducting an online survey to among other issues find out how well the police are performing. There is a massive wall of silence. Hope that Covid-19 did not kill the survey or the recent floods did not wash it away.

Yours respectfully

Clinton Conway



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