Crime Statistics in Thailand Imperative Improvements Required To Innovate and Modernize Criminal Justice Policy to Established Global Standards

If one seeks to learn about the occurrence and prevalence of crime in society, and to investigate the diverse factors that lead people to commit crimes, then one necessarily has to depend upon accurate crime data and statistics. The word crime is derived from the Latin word crimen, and means fault or accusation. Crime may simply be understood as an intentional act in violation of criminal law, which invites legal punishment. Only proper crime statistics can enable a meaningful codification and analysis of the data, and help in creating a sound criminal justice policy that may effectively seek to control crime. Criminal statistics have been succinctly defined as uniform data on offences or offenders expressed in numerical terms, derived by official agencies,  from their records, classified, tabulated, and analyzed to disclose the relationships between or among the classes of used data and published periodically according to a uniform plan (Sellin, 1971).

In Thailand, the Royal Thai Police is the main agency responsible at all times for the collection of crime data and the computation of the official statistics. Hence, it is the police that is the most important agency in Thailand that provides and interprets crime statistics to the public. However, such reports prepared by the police do not portray a correct picture of the actual number of crimes committed owing to both internal and external factors. The internal factors denote the police performance in leading to or allowing the crimes, and the external factors signify the other agencies or even the people themselves.

Therefore, the overall image of crime in Thai society, as depicted by the police, cannot be viewed as complete and trustworthy documents. More importantly, if the policy-makers employ the statistics or data offered by the police, without their careful analysis, it can cause the planning process to be hampered by the limitations of data. Any policy framed in this manner would hardly address and amend the root of the crime problems. Therefore, it is imperative that improvements be made in the collection of crime data.

This essay, therefore, attempts to do the following
Explain added and supplementary methods of collecting the data for crime statistics in Thailand
Clarify what the main problems and shortcomings of crime statistics are and
Present certain recommendations for tacking the problem and improving the crime statistics to the same level as in other advanced countries.
Finally, this essay will also try to answer the question whether crime statistics can continue to serve as the basis for the criminal justice policy, although they are known to be flawed.

General Contexts of Crime Statistics
The first crime statistics was published by the French government in 1827, and it has been used continually as the base for the policy-making process among administration justice until the present day (Treadwell, 2006). However, there are numerous criticisms about the inaccuracy and unreliable data of the crime statistics prepared in many countries, for example, within groups of academics, media, the public and especially among criminologists, who need the crime statistics as the base for their researches or studies. As Sumner (2004) says that Nothing can be more misleading than statistics (p. 469). When we hear about crime statistics, the important consequence issue seems to be the ways of collecting the data that is used in producing the crime statistics. Earlier, in England, or even in Thailand, only the police force was the main body that collected the crime data (Hale, et. Al., 2009). However, nowadays, several methods of collecting the data have been developed to enhance the reliability and validity of the statistics, and also try and record the maximum percentage of all the crimes that occur in the society. These better data-collection methods are crime victimization surveys, local surveys, and the self-report method. However, despite the developed countries, such as the USA or England, having systematic and modern data collection processes and superior technology, they still confront various obstructions and shortcomings in gathering the crime data. These hurdles stem from many reasons, for example, hidden crime, ineffective police resources, changes in counting rules or even the reporting behavior of the public (Maguire, 2007, p. 261). Hence, doubts have frequently been expressed over the desirability of using crime statistics, even though it is well known that that they are riddled with limitations and weaknesses. Therefore, in this essay, we will explain the shortcomings that obstruct the ways of gathering crime data, particularly in Thailand, which has undeveloped data collection methods, and present recommendations on how Thailand can apply the data collection strategies from the UK to cope with this problem.

Outdated Methodologies for Counting Crimes Why Do We Continue Using Them
There must be umpteen differences between Thailand and the UK in terms of culture, language, and the like. However, the ways to gather crime data in both these countries are essentially similar. Of course, matters remain far more advanced in the UK. Coleman and Moynihan (1996) state that the differences in the methods employed in counting crimes influence the different results that are obtained therefrom. It is obvious that the precise method of data collection will determine to a greater or lesser extent the data that is compiled using the method. Hence, one ought to evaluate the common methods, and adopt the best one  or combination -- for gathering of crime data. In this section, we will evaluate the usual methods of collection of the crime data and explain why they are used as the primary modes for collecting the crime data in both Thailand and the UK.  

Police-recorded Crime
In England, the official statistics come from the data that is collected by the police. This is because the police are the first institution that directly relates and confronts with the occurrence of crime. Therefore, if a crime occurs, people will report to the police at the first stage. The police are used as the main instrument to collect crime data, which might have been variously reported by the victims, either by coming to the police station, or by reporting the crime over the telephone or by the surveillance conducted by the police patrol. The data is conveyed annually to the public, as information from the British Crime Survey (BCS), and it explains by categorizing groups of offenses and showing the trends of crime (Maguire, 2007).

The crime data can benefit people in many ways. For example, it may help people in making decisions in their everyday lives (Hale, et. al.,  2009). Crime data is used by the private sector (security companies) or even as the basis for making a new policy for tacking crime. Nevertheless, there are numerous shortcomings in the data that is gathered by the police, and the only effect of it will be rendering the police force further complacent and ineffective. The cumulative impression that forms in the peoples minds will be thinking that the police can do nothing to solve their problems (Newburn, 2007). If people report a trouble spot to the police but find that it cannot prevent the occurrence of a crime there, then the people will be inclined to conclude that it is unnecessary, trivial and pointless to report things to the police.

Crime Victimization Surveys
As Maguire (2007, p. 272) points out that there is three or four times as much as the official records suggest. This is because of the lack or insufficiency of methods to measure the numbers of crime (Newburn, 2007). However, crime victimization surveys could be one of the efficient supplements for crime data that is collected by the police. This method aims to search for the dark figure , for example, domestic crimes, crimes among institutions, crimes against business (Maguire, 2007), which are not recorded by the police, by means of interviewing general household sample groups about their previous experiences of crimes  committed against them in a variety of crime cases (Hough and Maxfield, 2007). Even though the number of respondents is less than the number of people who report incidents to the police, this strategy can nevertheless anticipate the real amount of crime that might have been committed. Additionally, it is used as a tool for the assessment of the police performance, in finding out the proportion of crimes in society that the police can record. However, the method can only cover the sample groups, and not every house or community, because, as Maguire had remarked, extending crime victimization surveys would entail a substantial amount of money, and nowadays, an advanced technology can facilitate data collection at reduced costs (Hough and Maxfield, 2007).

Self-report Study
The main aim of self-report study is to advance the measures of crime areas and shape the number of crimes that occur in societies (Newburn, 2007). The survey uses a questionnaire to ask respondents about details of their previous delinquency behavior by focus on youth or minor offences, such as drinking, using drugs, theft or carrying weapons. Of course, it is possible to learn of many unreported crimes in this manner. This method also helps one to understand the offenders perspectives, notions and psychological tendencies, which cannot be found from other sources. However, there are limitations of this survey method too. For instance in the UK, it has been noted that the survey contains too many details and checklists. This confuses the respondents and in fact prevents an effective communication of crime data that might otherwise have been enabled.

The Shortcomings and Insufficiency of Crime Statistics in Thailand
As Bottomley and Pearse (1986, p. 1) have observed that, it is impossible to give any accurate or straightforward answers to the question of how much crime there is. It can easily be deduced from their writings that even the best methods involving the latest available technologies still prove inadequate in fully measuring all the crimes that occur, because of the dark figures or hidden crimes. Although, the methods were created to solve the problem, but each method still has certain innate strengths and weaknesses. This section will show the main shortcomings of crime statistics.

For example, the people do not report crime to the police because they believe that because of ineffective performance of the police. Similarly, the Office of Justice Affairs (2009) discovered that in Thailand, 69.2 percent of the victims did not report incidents to the police, because they thought that the police would not be able to help them. Several victims of crimes were also ashamed to report to the police if the crime had been committed within their own families (domestic violence). Victims are also often scared to report crimes, because the offender lived in the same house or areas.

Moreover, it is common for students in England  especially international students -- to sign contracts with mobile companies, falsely report theft of their mobile handsets, and then claim new mobile phones from the mobile handset companies. Such reports often get counted as property crimes that happened to the foreigners, even though they had been fraudulent claims.

One of the most common criticisms is failure to detect crime within institutions and companies, or white collar crime. This type of crime is really difficult to search, because it happens within the private sector and advance technology is often used by the criminal for his ends. Moreover, companies may not always advertise such crimes occurring within their precincts, in order to retain their goodwill and brand value in the market.

Likewise, crimes among schools are always known as hidden crimes. Crimes such as theft or assault cases within schools or drug crimes are known as victimless crimes, and these are not easy to discover. A change in counting rules can hugely impact the fluctuations of crime statistics. For instance, previously, some behaviors may not have been measured as crime earlier, but after changing the rules of counting, they may get labeled as crimes, and be counted. Hence, crime statistics are greatly influenced by decisions over what should be regarded as crimes, and which behaviors may pass unnoticed and unchecked. On the face of it, it would seem apparent that existing crime data must not adequately portray all the actual crimes that take place in society.      

Crime Statistics in Thailand A Contextual Study
A crime data base in Thailand is produced by four institutions, which are the Royal Thai Police, Office of the Attorney General, Courts of Justice and Department of Corrections (The Royal Thai Police, 2009). Each institution only reports and interprets the income data to the public. It is clear that this information arises from police data system as the main resource, which is collected by the reports from people. It, therefore, seems that the overall image of crime problems will have a discrepancy from the actual context. However, at present, the Office of Justice Affairs is attempting to expand the data-collection systems in order to make effective connections among elements of the criminal justice administration, and to develop people survey on crime. These developments seem to be changing the situation from simple reaction to proaction, but as mention above, Thailand still has a lot of problems that oppose the system from developing along the lines of other developed countries.

How Thailand Can Apply Better Practices Followed in UK
The first and the most important strategy that Thailand can apply from the UK is the development of crime data collection processes and an interpretation of crime statistics. In Thailand, the Royal Police interprets annually crime statistic by dividing it into five groups of offences, namely, violent crime crime against life and body property crime interesting crime and offences against state to the public. However, this information does not describe details of crime it shows only the number of crimes that happened in each month over the entire country, but does not analyze the crime trend. Hence, it is much different from the Home Office, which includes the comparison of crime trends and crime rates from previous year and since the year that the records were created. This provides greater details of crimes, such as stranger violence, trends in repeat victimization, reporting crime behavior, and so on.

An obligation to analyze the crime statistics in Thailand depends upon the specific agency that is related with the information. For instance, the Narcotics Suppression Bureau is responsible for collecting drug-crime data and producing drugs-crime trends, without any concern in violent crimes at all. The crime trend is, therefore, produced from scholars or criminologists who teach in the universities and also interpret them to the public. Thus, from these reasons, the first and the most important improvement necessary seems to be to increase the details of crime data. Thus, crime trends, crime rates, analyzed data or discussion rather than only an amount of crime cases that happened in each year ought to be included. This is because, in general, the public is less bothered about the number of crimes, as with the rise and fall of trend or an extent of crime.

Furthermore, the Thai police must follow the Home Offices Strategies, that is, they should participate with scholars and criminologists or employ them as a part of the process rather than relying only on police officers, administrative process and legislative factors (Gardner, nd). In addition, criminal justice agencies must work together to collect primary crime data (integration), and this can reduce conflict and complexity of an information.

Another important practice that Thailand can apply from the UK seems to be about crime victimization surveys method. Although, in financial year 2008-2009, the number of respondents of the survey in Thailand were twice more than in the UK, but if analyze and compare the method which quite similar in a pattern (in-depth interview), it is different in scope. For example, in Thailand, the interviewers do not distinguish respondents between reported and non-reported crime to the police. As Hale (2009, p. 48) states that the method aims to search crimes that were not reported to the police, then it adds to the confusion of data and also diverts the data from the truth. Moreover, the interviewers allow community leader or neighbors to participate and listen to the interviews. Certainly, sometimes this disturbance could damage an accuracy of the data, such as through biases, or respondents may be guided to give answers by anyone who participates in the interview.

Therefore, Thailand can utilize the UKs strategy to put more restriction and seriousness during the interview and should follow the UK in decreasing the respondents age for interview. During 2010, the Home Office has planned to include young people aged 10-15 in the survey (Home Office, 2009). This will make the data more broad-based, comprehensive, and representative.

Inadequacy of Continuing to Rely on Poor and Unrepresentative Crime Statistics
As already mentioned earlier, the crime statistics in Thailand are riddled with various pitfalls and shortcomings with regard to their accuracy and reliability. This begs the following question If the crime records are far from satisfactory, why do we need to continue using them as the basis for creating the criminal justice policy that is meant to suppress crime. Can such an approach solve the problems of crime in the optimal manner Will this not have an adverse impact on the resultant criminal justice policy that gets formed Is the useless policy waste the states fund At present, there are no policies or strategies to end this problem as we always hear crime is getting out of control (Maguire 2007) and we cannot reveal the full extent of crime. Thus, we must still to find the best answer to tacking this problem.

In my point of view, crime statistics can be used as rich information for making effective policies. The crime statistics that include police recorded data, victimization surveys or even self-report, have advantages and disadvantages in themselves, but they can promote each other to form an excellent data of crime incidents. Besides, each crime statistic represents the trends of crime problems of the entire country and also covers numerous offences groups and ages. It can be used as an indicator of changes and to gauge the variance with crimes that happened in the past from the current crime rate. Therefore, even imperfect data can still help the state to follow up the crime contexts, protect humans and property, and assess the expenditure information in criminal justice agencies that is due to for the next plan in the future.

For example, if we know an overall image of crime problems, then we can use the data as the base for the new policy in tackling the problems to a direct point, or by considering the main risk factors. This is including the time of occurrence, risk areas, high-risk groups or specific crime cases and it could be used as a preparation for the police officers in order to respond to the changes in the crime contexts. Moreover, beyond their use as the basis for policy, crime statistics can apply to form crime mapping and it seems to be the good quality and cheap data that is used by academics or criminologists to invent new perspectives and theories for developing the criminal justice process.  

However, although the crime statistics benefits in many ways, but before using them, it is necessary to analyze strictly the possibility of the statistics and using other sources to make a comparison between them. This is because the states data is sometimes untruth and very different from the real contexts. It could be that some groups seek to benefit from interpreting crime statistics in particular ways, such as by some institutions interpreting fictitious data or portraying themselves in the spotlight to the public, just because they want more funding  from the state (Maguire, 2007).

The Interpol, the international organization of police, releases the Statistique criminelles internationales, which has comprehensive information on crimes known to the police and the number of arrests made. However, the accuracy of even this global crime data is dependent on the methods of collection of crime data employed by the police of the member-countries of Interpol. Thai police can learn from the better practices being followed by the police of various other countries, especially UK, and this would lead to the compilation of qualitatively superior crime data.  

Finally, it need be stressed that the goal of policing and governance is peace, law and order and a better quality of life for its citizens. Mere material progress or urbanization does not result in a low crime rate in society. Indeed, the crime rate in various urbanized city clusters around the world is alarmingly high. The decisive factor associated with the frequency of crime in various societies is not cultural, racial or individual. It is degree of social stability. The more stable the social order, the less the crime. (Hurwitz and Christiansen, 1983). Therefore, the aim of better methods of collection of crime data is only to lead to a lesser incidence of crime and a safer society.    


Post a Comment