Recorded crime up to 38% higher than Garda figures, says CSO

CSO estimates 18% of crime initially recorded outside Pulse never input into Garda database

Recorded burglary and related offences have been underestimated in the official Garda statistics by 18 per cent, the CSO’s Review of the Quality of Crime Statistics found. File photograph: Getty Images

Recorded burglary and related offences have been underestimated in the official Garda statistics by 18 per cent, the CSO’s Review of the Quality of Crime Statistics found. File photograph: Getty Images

 

Recorded crime has been underestimated by up to 38 per cent, a review of the quality of crime statistics has concluded.

The study was carried out over a six-month period by the Central Statistics Office (CSO), which is supplied with raw crime data by the Garda from its computerised database Pulse and then collates the data into official figures for publication.

The CSO’s Review of the Quality of Crime Statistics followed a major report by the Garda Inspectorate into the Garda’s investigation of crime which last November first flagged serious issues with the accuracy of how the force was counting levels of crime.

The CSO has now estimated that about 18 per cent of all crime initially recorded - on computer records other than Pulse or in paper documentation, such as ledgers in Garda stations - was never entered into Pulse and so was never included in the official crime data.

Less serious offences

In other cases, when crimes were recorded properly, they were later reclassified with no justification to less serious offences or out of the crime statistics entirely, the review found.

Issues were also found with the Garda’s calculation of how many crimes it had detected, or solved.

In sample batches of a wide variety of cases claimed to be detected, the CSO found the force was overestimating its detection rate by 16 per cent.

The crime type most underestimated was that of “assaults, harassments and related offences”, including murder attempts or murder threats.

According to the Garda, some 17,062 offences in that category were reported to it in 2011. However, the CSO said the true level of such crimes reported to the force that year was about 23,500.

The only crime categories, out of 14, that were found to be accurate were homicides and “kidnapping and related offences”.

For example, while there were 76,974 theft and related offences officially recorded in 2011 according to the Garda, the CSO says the truer figure reported to the force was 98,000; an underestimation of 27 per cent.

Some 5,370 fraud and deception-related offences were officially recorded in 2011, according to the Garda.

Poor record-keeping

But the CSO says the true figure recorded by the force was about 6,800 offences, with 26 per cent of them missing from the official crime figures because of poor record-keeping or errors in recording crimes.

Sexual offences were underestimated by 5 per cent; recorded robbery and extortion-related crime was underestimated by 19 per cent, and recorded burglary and related offences were underestimated in the official statistics by 18 per cent.

The official crime data for 2011 recorded 49,060 burglary and related offences.

But the CSO says about 61,400 such offences were actually recorded by the Garda; with one in four of all such offences leaking out of the records and never being captured in the official end-of-year crime statistics forwarded to the CSO to be collated.

Similarly, recorded weapons offences including gun crime reached 3,483 cases in 2011, according to the Garda. But the CSO said the true number of such crimes recorded by the force that year was 4,300; some 23 per cent of cases slipping out of the official data.

The CSO stopped issuing crime data at the end of last year over concerns about the Garda Inspectorate’s report published last November.

It decided to carry out its own review, which it has now published.

And while the CSO on Tuesday recommenced publishing quarterly crime statistics, it has warned that the systems for counting crime have been found to be problematic, adding the issues have not been resolved.

It has suggested any study or analysis of the crime statistics it will publish in the months ahead are issued with those caveats.