CSO highlights continuing problems with Garda crime statistics

999 calls controversy shows need for ‘comprehensive end-to-end review’ of data recording

The CSO warned the cancellations of emergency calls may have further impact on concerns about Garda data. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien

The CSO warned the cancellations of emergency calls may have further impact on concerns about Garda data. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien

 

There are still serious problems with how gardaí record crimes, despite improvements in recent years, the Central Statistics Office (CSO) has found.

The CSO expressed concern about the recent 999 calls controversy, where gardaí inappropriately cancelled emergency calls, and said it shows why statistics from the force must still be reported as “under reservation”.

The controversy, which is the subject of an internal Garda investigation, shows the need for a “comprehensive end-to-end review” of data recording within the Garda.

It warned the cancellations of emergency calls may have further impact on concerns about Garda data. The CSO first started publishing Garda statistics “under reservation” in 2018 following a series of findings showing poor data collection practices.

The improper cancellation of 999 calls means offences may not have been recorded on the Garda Pulse system and therefore not counted in crime statistics, it said.

Concern

There is particular concern about the cancellation of domestic violence calls.

“It is critical that An Garda Síochána ensure they have appropriate internal controls to mitigate against crime recording procedures not being followed,” CSO statistician Sam Scriven said.

In its 2020 report on the quality of recorded crime statistics, which was published on Friday, the CSO declined to lift the “under reservation” classification, despite noting improvements in several areas.

The CSO also raised concern that crimes are being undercounted due to gardaí improperly classifying multiple unrelated incidents as a single crime.

It examined a sample of 100 incidents and found that a quarter did not comply with crime counting rules.

In one example, it found 10 incidents of historic sexual assault, involving 10 different victims, were recorded as a single incident in the recorded crime statistics. The CSO said these assaults should have been recorded as 10 separate incidents.

Eight incidents of serious threats against eight different people were also recorded under a single incident as were five separate burglary and criminal damage incidents concerning five different victims.

The CSO noted there may be reasons why the crimes were recorded under a single heading, such as them occurring in the same neighbourhood. But their classification was improper under the crime counting rules, it said.

It estimated 45 incidents of sexual violence (2 per cent of the total) were improperly recorded last year. Approximately 2 per cent of fraud incidents, 108 of the total, were also improperly counted. Many of these appeared to relate to duplication of records, it said.

The CSO also raised concerns about a lack of data in the areas of the use of weapons and discriminatory motivations for crimes. This was largely due to fields on Pulse not being filled out completely.

Prosecutions

Data is also not being sufficiently recorded on the relationships between victims and offenders and the number of prosecutions and convictions under specific legislation.

The timeliness of recording incidents on Pulse has significantly improved in recent years, the CSO said. In 2011, 89 per cent of incidents were recorded on the same day or the day after. By last year, this had risen to 93 per cent.

“The pathway to lifting the ‘statistics under reservation’ caveat is in building enhanced public confidence in the quality of Pulse crime data,” Mr Scriven said.

“Such confidence can only be generated through a trusted and transparent data quality verification process by An Garda Síochána, rooted in a clear appreciation of the data quality risks involved in the crime reporting and recording process.”