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Tweaked crime statistics: Who should respond

CPI Writings

crimestats-fingerBelow we are reproducing views from several CPI columnists and regular contributors on the whistleblower’s letter detailing the way in which crime statistics have been processed to provide the misleading conclusion that crime is on the decline in the country.

We await with interest the official response – whether from Hishamuddin Hussein, the Home Minister or Koh Tsu Koon and Idris Jala, the two ministers concerned in the Prime Minister’s Department or from Ismail Omar, the Inspector General of Police.

We had earlier published the letter of explanation on the collection and recording of crime statistics by ACP Razali Mohamad Yoosuf in response to the initial article by myself on why our police are impotent against the tide of rising crime.

We look forward to publishing any further response from ACP Razali and his colleagues in the PDRM or from any other of the alleged implicated stake players on the latest developments on this subject which is of so much concern to our citizenry.

It is important that some official response be forthcoming because at risk is not simply the public’s confidence in crime statistics and the police but at risk is also the public’s confidence in the other officially generated statistics on the country’s development as well as the public’s perception of the professionalism, independence and integrity of the civil service.

Few Malaysians will ever again look at official statistics without wondering how they have been fudged and manipulated by the government for political advantage.

How the tweaking works

Crime statistics consist of only the ‘index crime’, defined as crime which is reported with sufficient regularity and with sufficient significance to be meaningful as an index to the crime situation. Essentially, it means the index is the yardstick to gauge the crime situation of a given place, the district, state or the whole country. The index crime statistics will show whether the crime has increased, decreased or moving constantly. – extracted from the whistleblower’s letter published earlier in CPI

‘Non-index crime’, some of which involve a premeditated preparedness to cause serious injury, on the other hand, does not occur with such rampancy to warrant its inclusion into the crime statistics or as a benchmark to determine the crime situation.

There are several types of crime where the classification (based under the Penal Code) can be manipulated from index to non-index, the latter category which will not be reflected in the crime statistics.

Example (A)

Robbery – index crime under section 390 of the Penal Code: “In all robbery there is either theft or extortion”.

390. (2) Theft is “robbery”, if, in order to commit theft, or in committing the theft, or in carrying away or attempting to carry away property obtained by the theft, the offender, for that end, voluntarily causes or attempts to cause to any person death, or hurt, or wrongful restraint, or fear of instant death, or of instant hurt, or of instant wrongful restraint.

To deflate the crime statistics, a report on robbery made by a member of the public at the police station may be shifted in classification by the police officer on desk duty. Thus, instead of filing the report under section 390 of the Penal Code (offence considered ‘index crime), it is instead filed under section 382 of the Penal Code which is a non-index crime:

The offence as classified under section 382 – “Theft after preparation made for causing death or hurt in order to the committing of the theft” – is less rampant than a straightforward robbery.

382. “Whoever commits theft, having made preparation for causing death or hurt or restraint, or fear of death or of hurt or of restraint, to any person in order to commit such theft, or in order to effect his escape after committing such theft, or in order to retain property taken by such theft, shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to ten years, and shall also be liable to fine or to whipping.

ILLUSTRATIONS: A commits theft of property in Z’s possession; and, while committing this theft, he has a loaded pistol under his garment, having provided this pistol for the purpose of hurting Z in case Z should resist. A has committed the offence defined in this section.

Example (B)

Burglary – index crime under section 457 of the Penal Code: “Lurking house-trespass or housebreaking by night in order to commit an offence punishable with imprisonment”.

457. Whoever commits lurking house-trespass by night or housebreaking by night, in order to commit any offence punishable with imprisonment, shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to five years, and shall also be liable to fine; and if the offence intended to be committed is theft, the term of the imprisonment may be extended to fourteen years; and for every second or subsequent offence shall in either case be liable to fine or whipping.

It may shifted in classification to section 452 of the Penal Code, dealing with a less rampant crime and carrying a heavier penalty, and which is a non-index crime: “House-trespass after preparation made for causing hurt to any person”.

452. Whoever commits house-trespass, having made preparation for causing hurt to any person, or for assaulting any person, or for wrongfully restraining any person, or for putting any person in fear of hurt or of assault, or of wrongful restraint, shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to seven years, and shall also be liable to fine.

Example (C)

Causing hurt is an index crime under section 324 of the Penal Code: “Voluntarily causing hurt by dangerous weapons or means”.

324. Whoever, except in the case provided for by section 334, voluntarily causes hurt by means of any instrument for shooting, stabbing or cutting, or any instrument which, used as a weapon of offence, is likely to cause death, or by means of fire or any heated substance, or by means of any poison or any corrosive substance, or by means of any explosive substance, or by means of any substance which it is deleterious to the human body to inhale, to swallow, or to receive into the blood, or by means of any animal, shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years or with fine or with whipping or with any two of such punishments.

The filing of a report on a crime of this nature may be shifted in its classification to the apparently unrelated and rarely invoked section 148 of the Penal Code: “Possessing weapons or missiles at riot”.

148. Any person who attends, takes part in or is found at any riot and who has in his possession at such riot any firearm, ammunition, explosive, corrosive, injurious or obnoxious substance, stick, stone or any weapon or missile capable of use as a weapon of offence shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to five years or with fine or with both.

The shift in classification of the index crime to non-index crime may run into several thousand cases and thus impact on the statistics to make it appear as if common crime (robbery, theft/burglary) has decreased.

Views on the crime statistics alleged tweaking

From Koon Yew Yin

Firstly, no less a person than the Home Minister whose portfolio includes the police needs to address the issues raised by the whistleblower. Hishamuddin Hussein should convene a special press conference at which he can refute the damaging allegations made of political interference in the work of the police and the charge that “the police have succumbed to the political pressure in agreeing to achieve the targeted KPI set under the NKRA.”

Should he fail to do so, it will be an admission of guilt. Worse, it will show him as unfit and undeserving of the high position of Home Minister. In such a development, it is incumbent on Prime Minister Najib Razak and the cabinet to give Hishamuddin his marching orders and put him out to pasture in the same way that has happened to Shahrizat Abdul Jalil.

Secondly, Koh Tsu Koon and Idris Jala, ministers in the Prime Minister’s Department and the latter, chief executive officer of the Performance Management and Delivery Unit (Pemandu) must not pretend to be dumb and deaf on this.

As CEO of Pemandu – the unit monitoring the implementation of the Key Performance Indicator (KPI) initiative – Idris Jala is responsible for the statistical data that is released to the public. The whistleblower has provided a detailed account of how crime records are recorded and processed, and how these records have been manipulated to give the impression of a decline in crime in Malaysia.

The onus is on Koh and Idris to show that the whistleblower had got his facts wrong and to also answer the other serious allegations in the internet media on Pemandu’s role in this botched attempt to fool the public.

For the sake of their conscience and personal integrity, it will be necessary for both Koh and Idris to apologize to the public should their own investigations show that the allegations made by the whistleblower are substantially correct. This public apology must be followed by a clean-up of the mess and by strong action to punish those responsible for this despicable attempt to hoodwink the public on such a serious matter. Only in this way will Koh and Idris repair their reputation which is in tatters following this debacle.

From Jeyaseelan Anthony

Finally a whistleblower from the police has spilled the beans concerning the crime rate in Malaysia. The article by whistleblower published in the CPI Asia website is spot on. With regards to the perceived lowering crime rates, which was boasted by the National Key Result Areas (NKRA) on crime, one must realize that a lot people do not report crimes any more to the police, especially snatch theft and robbery victims etc, because they feel that it would not make any difference.

If it is not reported then it is not in the system.

That’s why the crime rate seems to be low and able to be manipulated by the authorities. Many victims have told me that the police seem to be very insensitive towards such crimes and have made it look that such crimes are normal now. I am sure many of you will have experienced this.

Malaysia seems to be a free for all country as far as crimes are concerned. Africans are having a ball of a time here committing crimes from cheating to drug trafficking. Iranians and South Americans have joined the bandwagon too. We read about this almost every day in the papers.

What has the Home Minister done so far? African students keep coming into the country to commit crimes and our government is receiving them to make Malaysia an educational hub! I can’t believe this! Why hasn’t the Immigration Department which comes under the purview of the Home Minister got tough on this issue?

Countries like the UK, USA and even India are very strict when it comes to immigration issues especially because of transnational crime and terrorism but our Home Minister seems to be taking it very easy.

What is even worse, taxpayers’ money is being used to feed these guys in prison. The Home Minister, now that he has an office in Bukit Aman, and the police only need to realize that you should beef up intelligence in low-cost housing areas as this where most of the culprits come from.

Believe me this is true because my wife was a snatch victim and the culprits came from the nearby flats. The crime rate in the place where I used to live has increased dramatically, when the low-cost flats nearby were built.

Even some low ranking police officers (OCS) have told me the same thing. The Special Branch instead of going after the political activists should be deployed in these areas. That’s how the Special Branch defeated the communists, by placing intelligence operatives in black areas. Why are the police not doing this when they can nip the problem in the bud?

As the whistleblower writer of the article says, enough of the PR exercise by the police. It’s time to get tough. So Mr Home Minister please buck up! If you can’t do the job please resign and give it to a more capable person.

From Ramon Navaratnam

I am appalled at the serious allegations and revelations made by a veteran police officer in his article entitled, ‘ Crime Statistics – Let the truth be told!

I believe that the Home Minister is duty-bound, as a duly elected people’s representative, to give a full explanation immediately on these allegations.

If an explanation and clarification by Hishamuddin Hussein is not satisfactory to the public, then the government should order a full public inquiry and investigation into these accusations of statistical manipulation of shifting the index crime data to non- index crime, which could mislead the public and the nation.

These charges of manipulation largely explain the wide perception and confidence gap in the minds of most Malaysians in regard to the grave doubts over crime statistics and Pemandu’s claim of the success in the fight against crime.

Indeed the very credibility of government and the national integrity can be adversely compromised by all these grievous allegations of police incompetence and even deceit, which must be officially exposed – with transparency, accountability and honesty.

Thus I would call upon the government and the police to give a full explanation and/or have a full public inquiry and investigation by an independent committee as soon as possible to tell the truth to all Malaysians who deserve to know nothing but the truth, please!

From Steve Oh

Thank you (to the whistleblower) for taking the trouble to tell us what you know and your constructive suggestions. Anyone can be a victim of crime and it is time the limited police resources are not diverted to non-productive duties.

The police should never try to cover up the true figures because it is not something that can be hidden when the figures and actual number of crimes taking place don’t tally.

That is why there is public outrage over the police claim that crime has gone down when the anecdotal evidence is against such a claim.

The writer has explained how figures can be doctored and it is a practice that should stop because it is unethical and dishonest and not tackling the real problems. In computer parlance, we call it ‘garbage in garbage out’.

Crime fighting can be successful when the police are left to do their job and are able to have the public help them in community policing.

There are good people in the police force who must feel demoralized because they can’t do their real job and it is time the politicians get out of their hair and let them do what the police do best.

Thank you, whistleblower, for providing the smoking gun and I hope the police will take note because remedial action may save a life. The life could be that of a policeman or a member of his or her family that becomes another statistic.

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