Stats can push all agendas

October 07, 2017

When it comes to statistics, you can just about make them say whatever you want them to.

It is a situation that inevitably comes up around the release of periodic Crime Statistics Agency figures, data that gives us some insights into crime spikes or reductions in our area.

Predictably, last week’s delivery of the latest Victorian figures led to a flurry of media releases dispatched from the Opposition, seizing the opportunity to question the government on particular areas of concern.

The agency’s data was collated for the period ending on June 30 this year, but one such release from the Opposition quoted a 13.72 per cent rise in crime in Shepparton since December 2014.

That is close to three years ago, so some may ask why those figures are being used instead of more recent comparable data.

The answer to this is quite simple. The figures are chosen to suit a political agenda, that being, hand-picked to support whichever argument they are pushing.

That is just politics, and no doubt if the shoe was on the other foot, the other side of politics would have no hesitation in doing exactly the same.

But, the facts are that the overall crime rate for the entire state dropped for the first time in six years, in the 12 months to June 30 this year.

And while Shepparton specifically has recorded increases in some crime areas, that does not mean that crime is out of control like some may assert.

For example, take a reported 142 per cent increase in people caught cultivating and manufacturing drugs in Greater Shepparton.

This does not necessarily mean there are many more people committing these offences. It may just mean more police resources have been allocated to intelligence and targeted towards catching offenders.

At least, that is the view of Greater Shepparton police Inspector Haydn Downes, whose views and insights rightly carry a great deal of weight.

It is a key function of the media to hold people in positions of power to account, and this includes advocacy for communities, monitoring crime rates and safety in general.

Similarly, the Opposition has every right to hold the Government to account on such issues and it would be highly unusual if they didn’t.

But the key message is: statistics can be whatever you want them to be, and things are not always exactly as they seem.

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