Saturday, April 14, 2012

Vested interests and statistics

I wonder what has prompted this belated outburst from Hone Harawira?

Domestic Violence is Going Up, Not Down

“Domestic violence is going up, not down” says MANA Leader Hone Harawira.

The Minister of Police, Anne Tolley, stated last week that “...we [New Zealand] have safer communities and far fewer victims of crime”.

Statistics from the NZ Police include:
• In 2009 police callouts to domestic violence were 78,693. In 2011 that figure has risen to 86,710 - an increase of 9.25%.
• Despite the increase of callouts, between 2009 and 2011 there have been 12,678 less arrests. That is a decrease of 31.71% arrests.

“The picture being painted is obvious. While there is an increase in the number of reported incidences of domestic violence, the cops are not arresting the offenders of the crime”.

“Women’s Refuge is now saying that the threshold for an arrest on the grounds of domestic violence needs to be higher for the cops to lay charges. So your husband will only be arrested if he tries to kill you, but a black eye is ok. It is a deliberate trick to manipulate the stats so the government can look good”.

“If you need proof, NZ Police no longer specifically record family violence offences in their official statistics. We will be on the only country in the OECD not to report these figures! That will mean in future years the government will declare that domestic violence is coming down. Yet organisations like Women’s Refuge know that such statements are bullshit – much like what Tolley has had to say last week”.

The business of 'up or down' has pre-occupied me recently. A couple of weeks back the Families Commissioner had a heated interview with Michael Laws. He claimed DV is going down which makes the White Ribbon campaign a success (Laws claims the campaign is biased and a waste of time).

But Women's Refuge are dubious about government presentation of statistics. Their primary interest is to obtain funding for their operations. Worsening statistics are more likely to achieve this - especially from government.

The Police want to look like they are doing a good job and the opposition want to make the government look bad. I guess that's where Hone fits in. (His example of a "husband" beating the wife is a bit rich though. Crime surveys show that women in marriages experience the least amount of domestic violence.)

A strong indicator of DV is represented in sexual assaults and police say that the recent surge in recorded sexual assaults - 3.1% 2009/10 - was almost entirely driven by assaults within intimate partner relationships. This may also apply to the 2010/11 larger increase of 14.9 percent.

Then there is the old 'reports versus actual crime' trick. When it suits, the government says that reports are up and that's good. 'People are coming forward due to all our efforts' they say. Reports may be up but that doesn't necessarily equate to the actual level being up, they say.

Yet Women's Refuge maintains need for their services is growing. Even then some of that may be driven by economic need (homeless women) as opposed to more violence.

Where Hone is on safe ground is criticism of the way statistics are recorded. It is impossible to make year- on- year comparisons when methods vary and police re-categorisation of crime has confused the picture significantly. (Re-categorisation is going to pose a huge problem when the government changes benefit types.)

The best rule on hearing a statistic is, even before you attempt to weigh up its veracity independently, look at whose mouth it is coming out of.

1 comment:

Psycho Milt said...

His example of a "husband" beating the wife is a bit rich though. Crime surveys show that women in marriages experience the least amount of domestic violence.

It's not significant. 60 years ago domestic violence mostly was within marriages because living together outside of marriage was difficult. Now that it's easy, the kind of failure who takes his inadequacies out on his wife is less likely to have taken the trouble to marry her first. The married/not married part isn't particularly relevant.