Measuring Up

I have placed a self-imposed gag order on commenting on my work life (we’ll see how long it lasts!).  Was beginning to sound like a bit of a broken record to family and friends (and I guess to you readers as well).  More than that though, instead of feeling unburdened by all the venting, I just ended up more tense than ever.

So on to new topics.

An interesting news story came up in the UK last week with respect to the (selective) use  of crime statistics for politically-motivated reasons.  Read the full story here.

I was amazed to learn that there is an independent body, established by law – the UK Statistics  Authority – that is charged with the responsibility of assessing “national statistics” and monitoring the reporting of such statistics.  Furthermore, there is a National Statistics Code of Practice and the log of issues raised with the Authority is publicly accessible (talk about the appearance of accountability and transparency!).

Is this sort of thing in the works for us?  I remember the debate surrounding national literacy statistics some time last year (if I am not mistaken) and more recently, poverty figures. Given the fact that statistics can play a huge role (greater than graft?) in shaping policy (i.e. Where to build the new school, health centre, sporting facility?  Why build a monorail, buy another water-craft? What social programmes to allocate funds to?  Where to cut budget spending?),  accountability is so dearly needed in this aspect of Trinbagonian life (like many others).  I think that while we should not be “copying” everything wholesale from everyone else, once again, our former colonial masters are showing us how something could be done.

I recently got my hands on the Central Statistical Office’s Report on Crime Statistics 1996 and twelve (12) years down the line, it was still fascinating to scan.

Highlights (for me):

  • “In recent times there has been a growing awareness of the need for crime statistics in Trinidad and Tobago, for purposes of policy planning and crime prevention” (Preface, p. i).
  • In 1996: 107 murders were reported, 295 sexual offences, 81 kidnappings, 200 acts causing danger to life, 11 cases of manslaughter, 505 woundings and shootings and 36 cases of attempted murder (p. 2).
  • With respect to the number of serious crimes reported in 1996 by police division: overall the Northern division had the greatest number and Tobago the least.   In Trinidad alone, the Eastern division had the least (p. 12).
  • 464 males were convicted in 1996 of offences against a “person with violence”, as opposed to 17 females, which is male/female ratio of 27.29 (p. 23).
  • Overall, the county of St. George had the greatest number of persons convicted in 1996, while Tobago had the least.  In Trinidad alone, the county of St. Andrew / St. David had the least (p. 23).
  • In 1996, with respect to the number of persons committed to prison by religion, Roman Catholics were the greatest in numbers, while Non-conformists were the least (p. 25).

When I think of the so-called murder figures today (500 plus!), I am just plain freaked out.


Note: The report distinguishes between crimes that are reported to police and those that are actually detected and provides comparative statistics for both.


Useful links

Central Statistical Office (Trinidad and Tobago)

Statistics and Registration Service Act 2007 (UK)

UK Statistics Authority

Code of Practice for Official Statistics: a consultation document (UK)

Issues raised with the Authority as at 1 September 2008 (UK)

~ by mangoandmosquitoblog on December 14, 2008.

2 Responses to “Measuring Up”

  1. You really believe, given what you have seen, that statistics play any role in our decision making process? Or that we have a policy that is adhered to?

    But alas, I spend a large amount of time in finding statistics to justify breaches to policy.

    Lets take a no-brainer, a comparative geographical mapping between Education Distict, County and Regional Corporation.


    • I am boggled by how anyone can get anything done in this place without current, accurate, reliable facts and descriptions, figures and statistics about our country, our population and the activities that we are involved in (the people involved in any form of market research have it the worst!). Imagine countries many times bigger than us can have so much information available about themselves and the entities that operate within them and with them. When are we ever going to catch up? Or does it suit some parties’ interests that we are constantly lagging behind? Who knows what takes place in “areas of darkness,” certain aspects of Trinbagonian life where information is completely lacking?

      I want accurate, impartial, reliable and up-to-date statistics to be generated by Trinbagonians for use by Trinbagonians (why should some foreign individual / entity be able to tell us more about ourselves?). I want those statistics to be able to withstand scrutiny from experts and non-experts. I want those statistics to be used ethically and responsibly to inform decisions of national and local importance and to be publicly cited (evidence to support an argument). I want to be able to access those statistics without having to negotiate some lengthy and complicated bureaucratic process, without having to pay some exorbitant sum.


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