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20% of reported crime 'unrecorded'

Published 30/06/2015

The CSO found that 20% of incidents reported by phone to stations in the Dublin region in 2011 were not transferred to the Pulse system
The CSO found that 20% of incidents reported by phone to stations in the Dublin region in 2011 were not transferred to the Pulse system

Almost one fifth of crimes reported to the Garda were not recorded on the force's official database in one year, an audit has found.

The Central Statistics Office (CSO) found that 20% of incidents reported by phone to stations in the Dublin region in 2011 were not transferred to the Pulse system.

Outside the capital, notepads were being used to keep records of the initial report of an incident and the audit found 16% of those did not make it to the database.

The CSO review was carried out after the Garda Inspectorate last year exposed massive errors on the Pulse system including poor classification of incidents and under-reporting casting doubt on the country's true crime rates.

In 2011, there were approximately 450,000 records on Pulse - 300,000 of them were crimes.

The CSO ordered an audit of official Garda crime figures before agreeing to resume publication and its experts found the rate of offences in Dublin missing from Pulse ranged from 12.2% of robberies to 24.6% of public order offences, with an overall rate of 19.8% for the entire sample.

It cautioned that some of the missing records may actually be on the database but their audit found it impossible to accurately match them due to insufficient information.

Across seven major crime categories - assault, burglary, robbery, theft, criminal damage, car theft and public order offences - an estimated 3% of incidents were incorrectly classified and another 4% did not have enough information to determine the correct classification.

Some 7% of incidents listed as domestic violence or "Attention and Complaints" should have been categorised as a crime.

Almost half of the reclassifications of assaults were unjustified or it was unclear what the justifiction was.

The audits will continue, the CSO said.

Frances Fitzgerald, Minister for Justice, said the CSO report identified the same issues of concern raised last year by the Garda Inspectorate.

"Many of these issues have no doubt built-up over time, particularly as technology has failed to keep up with the demands of policing in a modern society," she said.

Ms Fitzgerald said similar issues have been found in other jurisdictions.

The Garda Inspectorate addressed the international context of crime rate figures in its report and found 8.5% of the 300,000 crimes in 2011 had been reclassified when the international average is about 4%.

"It is vital that we have access to accurate, reliable data on crime. I expect nothing less," Ms Fitzgerald said.

"Quality data is critical to ensuring that the policing services offered by An Garda Siochana are responsive to emerging and latest crime trends. In addition, members of the public must be kept informed and they must be assured that the crime figures they are seeing are accurate."

Ms Fitzgerald said she hoped to announce investment in Garda IT shortly.

A new incident recording process has also been piloted by the Garda to improve the classification and recording of crimes at the database HQ in Castlebar and bring consistency to records.

The Pulse system is also being reconfigured to keep "investigation status" up to date.

The CSO published Garda records on crime statistics alongside its report.

They showed burglaries increased 8% in the 12 months to the end of March to 28,583 incidents while the same figure was also recorded for attempted murder, threats to kill, assaults and harassments.

Thirty eight murders or manslaughters were recorded over the year, the CSO said.

The number of incidents of dangerous driving causing death fell from 29 to 20 in the same period.

There were 2,501 sex offences, 129 kidnaps or related offences, while the record of car-jackings or the hijacking of an aircraft or vessel jumped dramatically from 65 to 114.

There were 5,144 recorded fraud, deception and related offences, the report showed.

Elsewhere, there was a 7.7% fall in weapons and explosives offences and a 3.6% drop in incidents of damage to property and the environment.

The CSO audit also examined errors in detection rates being stated by gardai.

For 2011, 138,807 cases were classed as "detected", meaning it had gone to court, no prosecution was directed or a child was under a diversion programme.

Based on a sample of cases which if further investigated, the CSO said the real figure for detected crimes was about 16% lower at 116,500 cases.

The worst rate was for sexual offences, where 1,144 incidents were recorded on Garda files as being detected but only 390 had evidence of a charge or summons.

Garda Commissioner Noirin O'Sullivan said other police forces around the world experience the same issue with inaccurate recording of crime, but she added it was not an excuse.

"It is important we have the correct processes and procedures in place, and they are adhered to by all members, so as to ensure all crimes are properly recorded," she said.

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