Today’s Garda Inspectorate report finds that recording of crimes has been mistaken, delayed or even altered in significant percentages by Ireland’s police force, nationwide.
In season 4 of The Wire, Roland ‘Prez’ Pryzbylewski explains the term juking the stats:
“Making robberies into larcenies. Making rapes disappear. You juke the stats, and majors become colonels. I’ve been here before.”
Section 4 of the report addresses incident recording – the administrative process involved in recording all incidents reported to or by the Gardaí. These incidents are recorded in the PULSE computerised system. Initial reading of the report highlights serious problems in structure and process.
There is criticism of the space available (3000 characters) to record details of investigations, limited sub-categories of crime, limited fields (e.g. none for Nationality) the use of the same system for crimes and non-crimes (e.g. lost items).
There are also startling figures showing the time between an incident and it’s recording is over a week in up to 15% of cases in areas such as Mayo and parts of Dublin.
Timeliness issues in recording crimes reported included serious crimes such as ‘Murder – Threat’ (4) and ‘Sexual Assault’ (59 of these).
“…examples of PULSE incidents viewed by the Inspectorate, where crimes were recorded much later and after an event that appeared to coincide with the recording of the initial crime:
- A burglary took place at a church and was reported to the gardaí. The crime record for this burglary was created five weeks after it was first reported and after a second crime had occurred in the same church. Suspects were identified for both cases.
- A case of assault arising from a feud between parties known to each other was reported to the gardaí in June 2012. It was not recorded as a crime until November 2012, after a second incident between the same parties had occurred.
- A case of assault reported to the gardaí in June 2012 was created in November 2012 and a caution was given to the offender.
These are not isolated examples”
Most seriously the report describes mis-classification of crimes and changing of narrative subsequent to recording on PULSE.
Examples of wrong classification include:
• Burglaries incorrectly classified as criminal damage or theft other; • Attempted burglaries incorrectly classified as criminal damage or trespass; • Crimes, including assaults incorrectly classified in non-crime categories; • Burglaries in garages, outhouses or holiday homes are not always classified as burglaries.
Examples of the most serious issue…
“narrative that was changed include:
- An indecent assault, where the descriptive words of the indecency were removed and the classification of the crime was changed to a minor crime and a non-sexual assault;
- A criminal damage offence, where the narrative “back door of house forced, no entry gained” was removed. The crime was an attempted burglary and not a criminal damage;
- A crime recorded on PULSE as a stolen car, had the words “car taken overnight, keys taken from table beside front door” removed from the narrative. In essence, this was both a burglary and a car crime, but the removal of the words would lead a viewer to believe that only a car crime was committed;
- A crime of theft other committed in a yard, where the word “bus” was removed from the narrative. The correct classification for this crime, on the basis of the original narrative, was a theft from a motor vehicle and not a theft from a yard.
The changes to the narrative in these four examples were coupled with a classification into a less serious crime. There was no explanation in the PULSE narrative as to why the text was changed or why the crime category was changed. In the absence of any clear rationale as to why the narrative was changed, it left the Inspectorate with the view that this was an action to reduce it to a less serious category. This omission of a rationale undermines the integrity of the data on the PULSE system.”
To remedy this the Inspectorate recommends that:
“the Garda Síochána immediately establishes policy that prohibits the changing of narratives and any other records on the PULSE system.”
Concerns about privacy and unauthorised access to personal data on PULSE are so common that The Inspectorate recommends:
“the Garda Síochána institutes security standards for the access and review of PULSE records, using an IT security solution, such as levels of access rights, to prevent unauthorised and unofficial access to PULSE records.”
There were also some general findings about the crime recording statistics.
- Across all categories, the Inspectorate disagreed with large percentages of the classifications shown e.g. 62% of assaults and 37% of robberies;
- Burglaries, robberies and car crime had much higher rates of correct classifications compared to assaults and domestic violence incidents.
“With regards to classification of those crimes that were recorded in the wrong category, all of the changes were to a less serious crime.“
Finally, concerns about the failure to record child sexual abuse crimes and the inordinate delays in creating crime records were identified as major concerns in the 2010 report. The Inspectorate concludes on this chapter.
“Essentially the Inspectorate found the same issues arising in relation to volume crimes, as were found in 2010 in relation to child sexual abuse crimes…
The Inspectorate believes that there are systemic failures in Garda Síochána recording practices and non-compliance with the Crime Counting Rules.”