WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 15: It is tempting to engage in another semantic tangle with the Government over Police statistics. It happens every quarter when Police release crime data.
Tuesday’s official release of the second quarter crime statistics presents a mixed picture that cannot be used to show there is a long term change in crime in either direction.
Crime was down 10.7 per cent in April, May, June, this year compared to the first three months of 2012. But that 10.7 per cent reduction still meant that 1,038 crimes were committed in that time – a figure that includes burglaries, assaults, firearms offences, sexual assault and, as we all know, a daytime murder in a popular barbershop.
It is the totality of crime today and the extreme violence that Bermudians find intolerable. Crimes against the person – from sexual assaults and serious assaults to robberies – were down 8.6 per cent, but that still meant 170 people in our community were attacked from May to the end of June.
But instead of engaging in a claim, counter-claim battle over the latest statistics, I propose we look at a much broader approach to the use of Police information that can activate the relationship between crimes reported and the public.
We want all residents in Bermuda to have accurate and clear crime data that is easy to access and understand. To achieve that, the Bermuda Police Service should implement and publicize street-level ‘crime maps’ showing all crimes reported and their outcomes. These crime maps should be updated each month instead of each quarter.
It is in Bermuda’s interest that we monitor crime in a way that is clear, meaningful and in which people can have confidence. That is why it is time for us to move forward with crime mapping and improve the way in which crimes are tracked and shared with the public.
Crime mapping has been used successfully by the Home Office in the UK since its initial launch in January, 2011. According to the Home Office, the crime-mapping website (www.police.uk) was developed to provide the public with access to key crime and policing information in a way that allows them to raise issues or take an active role in tackling crime and anti-social behaviour.
For example, the website allows people to type in a postal code to find out what crime or antisocial behaviour has been committed in that neighbourhood. It also shows how a crime has been dealt with by the police or the courts. Six months after its launch, the website had 420 million hits, showing — and feeding — a huge appetite for information on crime and what happens to a perpetrator.
Empowers the public
Crime mapping empowers the public to seek answers to the questions which matter to them most: Will the police stop the drug dealing happening on the wall at the end of my street? What happened after a number of burglaries in my neighbourhood? What’s being done to reduce the presence of gang activity in my neighbourhood?
This level of public scrutiny and accountability can act as a strong impetus to operating an even more effective service delivery.
The BPS currently releases the crime statistics each quarter to facilitate “effective and open communication with our stakeholders… inform them of the plans, efforts and progress being made by the BPS” and to “provide meaningful information” to reassure communities in Bermuda.
Monthly publication of reported crimes and the outcomes of crimes, and made available to anyone with Internet access, would help the BPS achieve these aims while increasing public trust and making the service more accountable to the community it serves.
Government needs to move toward greater transparency and accountability in the entire criminal justice system. The BPS now looks beyond the work of crime analysts – seeking input from residents for their targets and policing priorities. This enhances their relationship with the community and builds public confidence. Crime maps, along with daily access to interactive crime reports and outcomes, will help the public hold the Government, the BPS and other partnerships accountable.
I encourage the public to visit www.police.uk and experience the empowerment of fresh, accurate crime data available to you within seconds. Picture the positive impact this can have on our residents who fear the unknown of crime, on our social clubs and youth and our community leaders who must confront the issues.
Looking at solutions, like crime mapping, makes our community better informed and engaged. And, as Bermuda can appreciate, an engaged and empowered community is the key to public safety across the island.
Jeff Baron is OBA Spokesperson on National Security and parliamentary candidate for Pembroke South East.