What do the numbers say?

We are the first to admit that over the years, we took some kind of perverse pleasure in perusing the statistics sent out by the Royal Police Force of Antigua, in which were recorded criminal activity on island for the period under review.

Juxtaposed to the numbers for the year in question would be the figures for the previous year or two years previous. Hence, without digging too deeply, comparisons were obvious at a glance. Trends would be noted and extrapolations made.

Time was, too, that by the last week of December, the statistics would have been in the hands of the media and would form part of our year in review, along with the political, social and other notable events of the year.

Indeed, no year in review would be complete without a knowledge of how many murders- the ultimate in crime- took place. The number of larcenies, burglaries, house breakings, carnal knowledge, incidents of rape, wounding, attempted murder, and even suicides, would be given.

The stats would be comprehensive, and provided fodder for the news mill for a number of weeks following their release. And being the organization that we are, we would tap into the expertise of people whom we deemed able to shed light on the social phenomenon called crime and come up with analyses which made sense.

Definitely, the crime stats provided much information for the news cycle for the first few weeks of every new year. The mathematicians amongst us got the opportunity to calculate the percentages, along with other indices which explain phenomena that raw data does not.

In 2016 we received no crime stats; at least not as we knew them in former years. There were a few snippets of information here and there, but the comprehensive document to which we had been accustomed was conspicuously absent.

Enter 2017, and we are still awaiting the numbers from the hierarchy of the force to tell us how we stack up against our neighbours in the region; how much improvement, or lack thereof was made in 2016, and how far we have to go before we heap compliments on our law enforcement officers.

To say that statistics are the lifeblood of any nation is to state the obvious, or perhaps it’s not. Mark Twain is credited with making famous the saying: there are lies, damned lies and statistics.

As one observer noted, “The listing is in order of increased unreliability. So we have lies, which are notoriously unreliable source of information, then there are damned lies, which are worse. And finishing it all are statistics – which are open to interpretation. So while lies are statements, statistics are way beyond that in terms of what can be accomplished.

Without even delving too deeply, at least we could have used the numbers to pat ourselves on the back and crow ”we better than dem.” Now, we can boast of no such privilege.

Anecdotally, we can claim to have had far fewer murders than say, St Kitts, but then Mark Twain might say otherwise. Especially as we recall during the year just ended there were a number of incidents which went unreported by STRATCOM and which citizens reported to the newsroom.

When it came to reporting serious crimes, unless it was a capital offense oftentimes the newsroom had to ferret out the information. Of course it did not help when officialdom, on a number of occasions, declared the country crime free. As the year closed, the body of a Caucasian woman found on the beach many months ago was unidentified, and thus the authorities were reluctant to deem it a homicide. Later it was reported as such.

To underscore the importance of the numbers, properly codified and documented, is stating the obvious. How can we tell how far we have come and how much further we have to go unless the numbers indicate? By what measure will we judge the effectiveness of our crime- fighting strategies unless the numbers are there as guide? How will we determine the best placement for our limited, finite resources?

The point being: crime happens. It makes no sense we obfuscate the numbers and hide the figures. Each of us knows of someone who has had his or her property broken into, or has been the victim of some other crime.

A check of our Caribbean neighbor to the North, Jamaica, indicates that that country had 1300 murders. The prime minister in his new year message spoke to the numbers and the implication for that country’s economic growth. He further indicated that his government will be coming up with some new crime-fighting strategies for the upcoming year. We further learnt of a parish in that country which is celebrating the fact that not one of these murders happened in their territory. No doubt, others will be seeking to find out what was their secret.

We often refer to Antigua &Barbuda as our bit of paradise, and for some of us this is so. But the fact is the first crime was committed in the paradise called the Garden of Eden.

Our smallness in size was never an indication of our goodness, or badness for that matter. The human condition indicates that crime like everything else will always be amongst us. To pretend otherwise is foolhardy bordering on the insane.

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