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“Massaging” Odessa policing statistics – or not!

August 11, 2015

Once again, your author is on “home turf” with an entry regarding policing, policing plans – and specifically policing statistics today.

The entry is prompted by an on-going social media spat between former Odessa Governor Igor Palitsa and current Odessa Chief of Police, Giorgi Lortkipanidze.

In short, and quite probably connected with early electioneering and how well Igor Kolomoisky’s “Ukrop” will do in the local elections, the former governor (a Kolomoisky man) is lambasting the current Odessa police chief regarding alleged escalating crime figures – not that they decreased during Mr Palitsa’s governorship.

Giorgi Lortipanidze

Mr Lortkipanidze latest retort being thus – “Пишу этот пост для тех, кому действительно интересно возрос криминал или нет после моего прихода на должность начальника ГУМВД в Одесской области. Лично для меня на первом месте стоит не статистика, а реальная борьба с преступностью и доверие к милиции со стороны граждан. Раньше правоохранители работали исключительно для статистики, скрывали преступления, не принимали заявления, не возбуждали уголовные дела. Сейчас я сделаю все, чтобы милиционеры работали иначе, чтобы увидели реальную картину происходящего.
Что касается поста Игоря Палицы на Facebook о том, что возросла статистика криминальных сводок, я скажу так, и пусть все запомнят: милиция больше никогда не будет служить ни ему, ни одному олигарху или криминалу в целом. Они будут служить своей стране, своему Президенту и народу Украины. Игорь Палица забрал бронированные машины у милиции, которые наши сотрудники использовали в зоне АТО, защищая Родину. Из-за этого теперь милиционеры Одесской области едут в зону АТО на обыкновенных автобусах.
 И подводя черту под вышесказанным, я обещаю, несмотря на все те проблемы, с которыми я сталкиваюсь ежедневно, у одесситов будет новая полиция, заслуживающая доверия. И служить она будет народу Украины, а не отдельному олигарху, как это было раньше.

Leaving aside the allegations of the former Governor leaving his post with numerous armoured police vehicles that have never been returned, the issue at hand is an on-going change in Oblast policing whereby both the approachability and confidence in actual contact with the police is currently the driver behind  Mr Lortkipanidze strategy, vis a vis Mr Palitsa focusing upon what are guaranteed to be “massaged” policing statistics.

In fact, both are important.

Effective policing can only occur with the support of the constituency.  With the support of the public there is a police service.  Without the support of the public there is a police force.

In order to shift from the Soviet “force” legacy, to a more amenable “service”, internal institutional processes, policing attitudes, canteen culture, and policing priorities that effect changes in external public perception is vital.

This demands, amongst other things, far more transparency than the Ukrainian police have ever had to “endure” from the public, and an immense internal institutional culture shift.

It also means that the continued “massaging” of policing statistics – which occurs in every nation, has to be reigned in to far more acceptable levels.

By way of example, in the UK, Home Office policing statistics are “massaged” long before they reach the Home Office, where they may yet be further “massaged” – or not.  And there are numerous ways to do it.

If for example burglary is particularly high and well above the national or constabulary average in a certain policing area, efforts may be made to make those statistics closer to the national average.  Some burglaries may be reclassified as theft from a dwelling.  If you are wondering what the difference is, for a burglary the offender must enter as a trespasser, whereas theft from a dwelling the offender may have been invited in, or if known to the victim and a regular visitor, the issue of trespassing vis a vis coming and going whether the occupant is home or not becomes more “blurred”.  The ultimate outcome is that burglary has a different Home Office crime code to that of theft from a dwelling, and thus crime statistics can be manipulated.

The same can be done with violent crime.  A Section 47 Assualt which has a Home Office crime code, can be massaged down to a Section 39 Assault, which has no Home Office crime code and is therefore not a crime statistic.

Sections 4 and 5 of the Public Order Act that have Home Office crime codes can be nudged down to Drunk and Disorderly and/or Breach of the Peace which have no Home Office crime codes if violent recorded crime is deemed slightly too high in a particular area.

And so it goes on across various areas of statistical criminality – criminal damage under or over a certain amount – each with their own Home Office codes etc.  Detected or undetected, there are ways to insure the national average (or thereabouts) is achieved regarding crimes of a certain category.

There is then the issue of detected verses undetected crime and the national average.  Again it is possible to shunt Home Office classifications up or down with detected crimes vis a vis undetected crimes to meet national averages.

Be mindful of the fact that whatever the Home Office criminal code used, does not necessarily translate to the offence any offender is ultimately convicted of – if they are actually convicted at all.  “Detected” means offender arrested and charged for the purpose of Home Office statistics – not convicted.   Deals with the Crown Prosecution Service may see a recorded Section 20 Wounding, dropped to a Section 47 Assault in return for a “guilty” plea.  Thus the Home Office statistics may reflect a detected serous wounding, whilst the offender is convicted of a less serous assault.

There are then methods of clearing up/detecting numerous crimes.  The first is called “Taking into Consideration” or TiCs.  This is where an offender who admits a few crimes, normally of a similar nature, will admit to a lot of other usually similar offences, but is only actually charged with 2 or 3 and thus sentenced for 2 or 3.  The “TiC” sheet is made known to the Judge, but invariably results in little or no additional “time” – even with 30 TiCs.  The net result for the Home Office statistics however, is a lot of detected crimes.

There is also what is known as “Prison Write-offs”.  If an offender has been sentenced to 3 years for burglary for example, but is suspected of others yet there is no proof, then he is interviewed in prison and may voluntarily admit to numerous other burglaries and “write them off” as an insurance that evidence will not come to light that will lead to his immediate arrest when eventually released, also insuring no additional “time” having voluntarily wiped his outstanding criminal slate clean whilst in prison.  The net result again, a lot of detected crimes as far as the Home Office statistics are concerned.

A last method is to “confirm” a victim still wishes to pursue a complaint.  Should they withdraw their complaints, which although rare, does happen, then no complaint means no crime to investigate and thus no Home Office statistic.

This first tier of “massaging” is generally done at a Divisional level before reaching the constabulary HQ, where of course, further “massaging” may (or may not) occur when all divisional returns are received and the national average (or there abouts) is still not close enough.

There after there are the Home Office manipulations via crime reclassifications, inclusions, exclusions, new codes etc.

Should you wonder why the national average is important, the answer is no constabulary wants the attention of being far outside (positively or negatively) of the national average as it draws Home Office attention.

This situation is no different within Ukraine, although the processes may differ and be rather more heavy handed/blunt in the “massaging” that occurs.  It may also be less than adequate in the way some confessions – particularly “multiple clear-up” confessions may be obtained.

The extension to all such “massaging” is of course that the true crime statistics are simply “blurred”.  That is turn has a causal effect upon policing, in particular targeted policing, budgeting, and ultimately dealing with the issues that plague local constituencies.  Those issues form part of any local policing plan, which forms a regional plan and can indeed (on occasion) skew any national policy.

As such, if there is to be a new police, new training, and an attempt to change the local canteen culture and national ethic of policing in Ukraine, then many of the inherited statistical “massaging” methodologies should also be addressed to something that at the very least produces statistics that come fairly close to the actual policing issues with regard to criminality – whether the lens is zoomed in locally or zoomed out nationally.

Mr Lortkipanidze is presented with such an opportunity.

Considering the societal acceptance of change and associated flux currently existing in Odessa (for however long that lasts), then now would be a good time to formulate a new statistics gathering recording mechanism, and publicly point out that there will be a new mechanism that will initially see certain crime figures worsen due to that new methodology.  The societal benefits of those (hopefully temporarily) worsening crime statistics should be publicly stated – those benefits are simple.  Far less fudged and massaged statistics provide a far sharper indicator of the real societal issues that require targeted policing to address.

In short, the new statistics will get worse, but will allow for better policing. better budgeting and most importantly a more transparent and measurable policing accountability.

It would also mitigate the political point scoring of the former Governor (on behalf of Ihor Kolomoisky and his Ukrop Party), as a claim of comparing yesterday’s statistical apples with today’s statistical oranges would, and could be made in the public domain.

Will Mr Lortkipanidze seize the opportunity currently before him?  Without a publicly available Oblast Policing Plan, we can only wait and see.

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