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Review of the Quality of Recorded Crime Statistics 2020

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The Central Statistics Office (CSO) compiles and publishes Recorded Crime statistics for Ireland. Recorded Crime statistics are a vital information source on volumes and trends of crime reported to An Garda Síochána, and trust and public confidence in the statistics is critical. The CSO has published these statistics ‘Under Reservation’ since March 2018 to alert users to the CSO’s concerns regarding the quality of PULSE, the underlying administrative source from which the statistics are compiled. These are the only statistics the CSO publishes under such a quality label. This report summarises the findings of a fourth Review of the Quality of Recorded Crime Statistics, the purpose of which is to examine the quality of the source data in terms of the published statistics.

The review examines the extent to which user needs for crime data are being met from PULSE and notes that better quality data is enabling the CSO to expand the statistical products it can provide to users, for instance as a result of the improved reliability of PULSE outputs relating to detected crime and suspected offenders. Data gaps remain, however, largely based on some PULSE data fields not being comprehensively completed, in particular in relation to crimes with discriminatory motives, domestic abuse and the use of weapons in crime. Changes to the PULSE system to accommodate data capture of the relationship between victims and perpetrators are currently being implemented by An Garda Síochána, and this is to be welcomed as, when fully implemented, it will meet a clearly expressed user need. The report also acknowledges other improvements in PULSE data quality, such as the classification of crime incidents and timeliness of recording incidents.

PULSE data is, first and foremost, collected and used for operational policing purposes and the CSO is not involved in the recording of crime and its initial processing and checking within An Garda Síochána. An absence of reporting on PULSE data quality by An Garda Síochána themselves means the CSO is limited in its ability to properly inform users about PULSE data quality. Accordingly, there is a need for An Garda Síochána to monitor and evaluate data quality, and, ultimately, to report on data quality in a transparent way to users.

The recently reported issues surrounding the inappropriate cancellation of 999 calls on the Garda Computer Aided Dispatch (CAD) system further impacts on concerns relating to the quality of Recorded Crime statistics. The CSO is awaiting clarification of the full extent of the issue from An Garda Síochána. The premature or improper cancellation of calls on the CAD system means that records relating to these crimes may not have been created on PULSE and are therefore not counted in Recorded Crime statistics. It is critical that An Garda Síochána ensure they have appropriate internal controls to mitigate against crime recording procedures not being followed.

The CSO advises users that Recorded Crime statistics will remain ‘Under Reservation’ for the present time, and the CSO will continue to publish crime statistics sourced from PULSE given the important societal need to have information on crime in Ireland. The pathway to lifting the ‘Under Reservation’ is in building enhanced public confidence in the quality of PULSE crime data. Such confidence can only be generated through a trusted and transparent data quality verification process by An Garda Síochána, rooted in a clear appreciation of the data quality risks involved in the crime reporting and recording process. Robust, trustworthy crime statistics are a vital tool for decision makers and society, and the CSO remains committed to advising and assisting An Garda Síochána in improving data for statistical purposes. 

Go to next chapter: Introduction