THE recent publication of "crime statistics" over which politicians and commentators have been arguing ("Violent crime spike in PE", September 21) do not appear to indicate what these "statistics" actually represent, for instance do the "rape" statistics represent:
- The number of cases reported and given case numbers by the police? The relationship between this figure and the number of actual rapes depends inter alia on the confidence that women have in the value of reporting;
- The number of cases actually brought to court? An important variable here is the efficiency of the investigators and their commitment to getting a case to court;
- The number of convictions? The efficiency of the prosecutorial system, including the prejudices of the various parties involved, is crucial here.
If one assumes that the three variables above are constant over time, then the statistics may well indicate trends, that is whether particular crimes are tending to increase or decline, but they tell us little about one's actual chance of being raped (robbed, assaulted etc). From press reports and informal conversations the assumption of constant variables appears unlikely.
A survey which establishes whether victims of crime (other than those with an interest in insurance claims) are more or less likely to report them to the police, and a comparison, over time, of changes in the proportion of reported cases coming to court, which should be possible from police records, could provide some clarity. Until then, the publication of "crime statistics" , even if done on a monthly or quarterly basis, must be viewed with considerable suspicion.
Michael Whisson, Grahamstown