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Official crime statistics highly unreliable

Schoolboys and schoolgirls in UK who take O-Level sociology learn the following basics about official crime statistics - official crime statistics are not reliable indicators of the extent of crime in the community.

Anthony Giddens, probably Britain's foremost sociologist, in his textbook says: "Statistics about crime and delinquency are probably the least reliable of all officially published figures on social issues."

Official crime statistics are not reliable for many reasons:

Many crimes are not reported to the police. There are various reasons for this e.g. the victim feels the crime is too trivial, or does not think it will be solved anyway, so does not want to waste time. Or he/she does not trust the police or fears repercussions.

Certain crimes are very personal: in some places in the US up to 90 percent of rapes do not get reported.

Female crime is under-represented in the official crime statistics because of leniency toward female offenders and some crimes committed by females are neglected e.g. prostitution.

Many white collar and corporate crimes go unrecorded by the police. Such crimes are complicated to investigate and prosecute and the criminals have the power to protect themselves.

Many of these crimes are "solved" quietly within the company to avoid bad publicity.

Bribes to the police result in many crime reports not seeing the light of day.

The official crime statistics are compiled by the police department so can be doctored to make it look the way they want.

Some crimes, even when reported, don't go into the statistics e.g. 10 houses on the same street are burgled but they can be recorded as one crime or a wife-beating case is dismissed as a domestic squabble.

Victim surveys and self-report studies conducted by unbiased researchers give a truer picture of the number and types of crimes being committed, but I am not sure anyone has conducted such studies in this country.

The press can also distort the crime statistics by spinning and exaggerating stories to win readers.

They do this by reporting certain crime stories in sensational style, maybe wanting to create a moral panic - the readers and politicians scream "bad", the police spring into some short-term action, based on their criminal stereotypes. The statistics go up, the crime situation looks bad.

This is the "perception problem" the home affairs minister has been blaming on the people who complain the crime level is bad in Malaysia and he may have a point.

But Hishammuddin Hussein and the IGP should also learn from the British O-Level schoolboy to take the official crime statistics and the alleged 10.1 percent drop in crime level with a handful of salt, and ask again, what is the real crime situation in the country, because the people are crying foul.