Police crime stats do not meet official criteria: Statistician-General

14 February 2017 - 17:50 By Sipho Mabena

The crime statistics released regularly by the SA Police Service do not meet fundamental principles of official statistics‚ Statistician-General Pali Lehohla has said.

Pali Lehohla
Pali Lehohla
Image: Supplied

He said the police crime statistics have to satisfy the 10 fundamental principles of statistics before he is able to declare them official and release them to the public‚ going on to list some of the principles.

"They must be collected with the best methods‚ they must comply with the quality arrangements‚ they have to be simultaneously [released]‚ they must be released to everybody at the same time. There cannot be privileged release of results; they do not meet those criteria‚" he said.

Speaking in Pretoria on Tuesday‚ Lehohla said this was why his office was working with the police to arrive at the point where their statistics could be declared official and be released by his office.

"One characteristics of that is it will not be the police releasing their numbers‚" he said.

Lehohla said this did not mean that police numbers were being doctored.

"But there is nothing... to suggest that they are massaging the numbers. No‚ there is not‚ because I get involved and look at them. But certainly‚ they cannot be responsible for releasing their own statistics because we know when policy feel threatened‚ the likelihood of doing things that protect [against] that threat are very imminent."

But he was also not in a position to declare that statistics official‚ he said. "Once I do‚ they are going to be declared by the Statistician-General.”

He said because they were not official‚ the release of the crime statistics by the police did not help Statistics SA.

"The police statistics have not reached the level of official statistics as yet. We are working on that."

Lehohla said that it was acknowledged as far back as 1998 that the collection of crime information was very poor and it took too long to deal with that process.

He said he had worked with every police commissioner who came into office in an effort to deal with the numbers‚ adding that the rapid turnover in that post had resulted in systems becoming disorganised.

"That‚ in part‚ has corroded the possibility of getting the data systems in place for the criminal justice system. But now recently‚ from about 2013‚ we have really been able to get both the police statistics‚ including having some of our staff members working for the police. They are now appointed under the police and they are statisticians‚” he said.

Lehohla said there was movement in the right direction though‚ adding that police were beginning to use data on the basis of households surveys to tactically look at their systems and strategically locate their processes to deal with crime.

"But‚ I must admit‚ the process has been excruciatingly slow. Because you really have to drive data‚ these systems need data to understand the correlates as well as the contributors as well as causes of crime. We need... all the data about the kind of society and so on to understand and deal with crime‚" he said.

- TMG Digital/The Times