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Why was the “Under Reservation” categorisation applied to Recorded Crime Statistics?

In 2014, the Garda Síochána Inspectorate published a report called Crime Investigation which identified quality issues in relation to the recording of data on the Garda PULSE system. The PULSE system is the only source of recorded crime data available to the Central Statistics Office (CSO) to produce these statistics. 

The findings of the report led the CSO to suspend publication of Recorded Crime Statistics in 2014 in order to conduct a review of the impact of the Inspectorate’s findings on Recorded Crime Statistics. Some of the findings from the Garda Síochána Inspectorate report, and subsequent CSO reviews, included:

  • Some crimes being reported to An Garda Síochána (AGS) but not recorded on PULSE.
  • Poor timeliness in creation of PULSE records and incomplete record-keeping.
  • Misclassification of crimes.
  • Crimes being marked as “detected” when there is no corresponding sanction for the offender (e.g., a prosecution).

The provision of crime statistics is important for a range of societal reasons. To ensure that there would be no vacuum in the provision of this information, the CSO recommenced publishing the Recorded Crime Statistics using an “Under Reservation” categorisation from March 2018 to highlight to users that there may be underlying quality issues in the Garda data. These were the only statistics published by the CSO under this categorisation.

What purpose did the “Under Reservation” categorisation serve?

The category “Under Reservation” was applied to actively alert users to the underlying quality issues in PULSE data which is used to compile Recorded Crime Statistics and to inform them that revisions to the data could be expected as particular quality issues were resolved.

Why are you lifting the “Under Reservation” categorisation now, what has changed?

The CSO is lifting the “Under Reservationcategorisation because AGS has now implemented a more formal quality management system for PULSE data, amongst other measures, that support data fit for statistical purposes. These measures also generate improved data for operational policing purposes. These particular developments took place throughout 2022 and 2023, culminating in systematic quality checking and publishing of those results, with a focus on risk management. This was one of the key CSO recommendations in the Quality Improvement Proposal from 2018.

Other recommendations from the Quality Improvement Proposal from 2018 and Quality Reviews have also been met, principally:

  • As part of the fifth CSO Quality Review, the CSO has conducted a standard quality checking of PULSE data and has found consistent evidence of high data quality levels.
  • AGS commissioned an independent review which found evidence of good controls for the acknowledged risks to data collection and quality.
  • There is now a senior manager within AGS who has overall responsibility for data quality (CIO appointed November 2019).
  • The provision by AGS of a comprehensive and publicly available document explaining how crime is recorded (2020).
  • A new Memorandum of Understanding between the CSO and AGS which explicitly outlines expectations concerning AGS quality checking and reporting of same.

What time periods does the lifting of the “Under Reservation” apply to?

The reservation is lifted for recorded crime data disseminated by the CSO from Quarter 1 2023. AGS has worked over the past number of years to advance the assurance levels which can be provided around Garda PULSE data, and in particular the quality management developments of 2022 and 2023. This work has seen the development of quality assurance processes by AGS over the period which has culminated in the implementation of a more formal data quality management system by AGS.

 The recorded crime series has been progressively improving over time with the cumulative impact of the improved data quality, assessment, and assurance measures being seen in a higher data quality level as noted in various CSO reviews in recent years.

Given the new AGS controls for quality checking and reporting, coupled with the CSO reserving the right to do its own reviews, a level of assurance has been provided warranting the lifting of the "Under Reservation” categorisation. 

However, some judgement should be exercised by users when using data produced in the earlier years of the Recorded Crime time series given the legacy quality issues which have been commented on in various reviews. For instance, detections data pre- and post-2018 are not comparable given the improved governance controls introduced in that year. The CSO will continue to inform users of the quality of the data they are using, and of any particular issues which may need to be noted around time series comparability as they arise.

Are the Gardaí responsible for their own quality monitoring now?

A strong feature of a quality management system for data quality is the owner of that system taking responsibility for data quality – understanding the risks which need to be managed and the controls required to manage those risks. Understanding the data collection process through a range of quantitative and qualitative measures provides insight into the process and through a feedback loop, provides reassurance and opportunities for ongoing improvement. It is an important feature of the quality management system that AGS are taking such ownership. In parallel to this, the CSO will continue to use and analyse the data and reserves the right to conduct its own reviews and to update users appropriately.

How confident can you and the public be in the crime data now?

Over the past number of years, AGS has worked to advance the assurance levels which can be provided around PULSE data with the CSO providing guidance on appropriate quality measures There is never a risk-free data collection process, particularly for something as complex as crime incident recording but what the CSO has seen is a much-enhanced sense within AGS of the risks to PULSE data quality and the controls and resources needed to help manage those risks.

In addition, the new AGS controls, quality checking, and reporting, with more to be added, coupled with the CSO reserving the right to do its own reviews, provides a level of assurance such that users can be confident in the data. As mentioned above, the earlier years of the time series may still encounter some of the legacy data quality issues. The CSO will continue to update users around how to interpret the Recorded Crime time series, particularly with reference to comparability of the series over time.

Why did this “Under Reservation” categorisation last so long?

This exercise in quality improvement reflects an extensive process to identify the quality management system required, its resourcing and its effective implementation. Improvements to the quality of the data have been introduced on a rolling basis over the last number of years. The quality improvements can be tangibly seen in more data availability and in the quality of data for users.

Could the “Under Reservation” categorisation ever be applied again?

As mentioned above, the much-enhanced sense within AGS of the risks to PULSE data quality and the controls and resources needed to help manage those risks gives a level of assurance that the risk of systemic data quality issues occurring is minimised. However, should a significant data quality issue emerge, the CSO will need to evaluate the situation and be satisfied that the necessary remedial actions and controls are taken to address same. The CSO reserves the right to conduct its own quality reviews into the future.

CSO Publication, , 11am