Friday 21 October 2016

Extent of problems in recording and classifying crime is very worrying

Published 29/09/2016 | 02:30

Bob Olson. Photo: Gerry Mooney
Bob Olson. Photo: Gerry Mooney

The latest report from the independent Central Statistics Office on the under-recording of crime is a timely reminder of the major flaws in the Pulse computer system available to the force.

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The findings of the CSO study are not a surprise and underline the deficiencies already revealed in another report from the office last year and an examination carried out by the Garda Inspectorate two years earlier.

In the meantime, the garda authorities and the Department of Justice have taken some preliminary stop-gap action while they await the promised overhaul of the outdated IT tools available to the force.

These temporary measures have brought about some improvements, which in theory should allow officers to track inquiries into a recorded crime and check on the progress made in the investigation.

Prior to those changes, which were introduced in the past year, crimes were simply marked as "under investigation" and it was extremely difficult to determine the status of those inquiries.

The CSO acknowledged yesterday that the level of non-recording and wrong classification of crimes had improved "slightly" since the audit report, published last year but relating to the 2011 crime figures.

However, the extent of the problems, which still exist, remains extremely worrying, with an average of almost one one in five reported crimes not recorded on Pulse and the figure increasing to more than 17pc in some areas.

New crimes are meant to be recorded on the computer system on the day they have been reported but the CSO found that some were not keyed into Pulse for up to a week, while others were wrongly classified or were lacking in detail to allow the category to be determined.

A significant portion of these flaws can be attributed to the failure to provide the gardaí in some districts with even the basic computer equipment to input the information quickly into the database and they are left relying on paper and pen to make the initial report.

A raft of recommendations were put forward three years ago on how to eliminate many of the errors and update the system and these were all readily accepted by the gardaí and the then government. But it was acknowledged that a huge financial investment was needed if the force, technologically, was to be brought into the 21st Century.

Last year the head of the Garda Inspectorate Bob Olson described Pulse as 1990s technology and said it was time for the system to be put into retirement and the gardaí provided with "an entirely new platform".

Tánaiste and Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald has allocated €205m in the capital plan for 2016-2021 to upgrade the classification of crime and recording of detections to required standards, but the distribution of that money must now be fast-forwarded to ensure that the current litany of flaws are eliminated within a shorter time frame.

In the meantime, these findings should not be allowed to detract from the CSO's other publication yesterday showing that 10 of the 15 crime categories recorded a decrease in the past year, with burglaries down by more than 26pc in the year ending June, while robberies, theft and gun crime fell significantly.

Irish Independent

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