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Optimisation of Data on Crime and Law Enforcement

Press release, February 28, 2020

Information on the development and effectiveness of combating crime is central to politics. The statistics of the German police and the (criminal) judiciary in principle provide such information, but have significant gaps. Data links between the statistics are not possible, and due to incomplete access to these statistics, scientific research cannot utilise the full potential of these data - especially not for advisory purposes. The German Data Forum’s (RatSWD) publication analyses the (incomplete) interconnectedness of the existing statistics and develops solutions. The analysis is addressed to politicians, administrative authorities, and the statistic producing bodies.

Valid, up-to-date, and well-developed crime and criminal justice statistics are necessary for evidence-based crime policies, efficient resource planning, constitutional oversight, science, as well as informing the public. Crime statistics include the offenses registered by the police. Criminal justice statistics summarize a body of statistics that accumulate across the phases of criminal proceedings. In this publication, the German Data Forum (RatSWD) describes key gaps in German crime and criminal justice statistics, and formulates specific recommendations to optimise these statistics.
As of now, there is no federal legal basis for a comprehensive and uniform recording of criminal justice statistics. The German Data Forum (RatSWD) encourages the commitment to a criminal justice statistics law in the current coalition agreement, and expects its implementation. The many statistics that include data on crime and criminal justice are based on different processing, collection concepts, and counting methods. The harmonization between the statistics would significantly increase the potential of the existing individual statistics. Due to the large amount of unrelated statistics, it is currently impossible to analyse possible links between registered crimes, convictions, and releases. It also cannot link crimes done by the same individuals after their release. The German Data Forum (RatSWD) recommends carrying out a feasibility study to optimise the statistics. The existing statistics could be supplemented with data that are already electronically collected but are not currently used statistically. This includes demographic information on the accused and criminal offenses, forms of sanctions, and key data on the enforcement of fines, re-socialisation offers, youth arrests, and comprehensive statistics on enforcement. These pragmatic additions can improve evidence-based policing and punishing of crime in Germany.

Official statistics are limited to the forms and cases of crime registered by the police. For a realistic assessment of the structure and development of crime, as well as for a record of fear of crime, constant nationwide victimisation surveys are required. Such surveys can also report on crime that has not been reported and that can lighten up the so called dark-field of crime (see also RatSWD Output 2 (6) [German]).

Independent scientific research requires regulated and secure access to the microdata of the statistics mentioned before, as well as dark field surveys, in order to fully exhaust its research and advisory potential. Data protection-compliant access could be structured by relying on the established model of research data centres (RDC). This would create considerable potential for science, security agencies, and society as a whole, in order to understand state action in the internal security sector.

The report is addressed to researchers, politicians, security and judicial authorities, statistical producing organizations, as well as the public. It is available for free to download on the German Data Forum’s (RatSWD) website: https://doi.org/10.17620/02671.46 [German].

 

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Established in 2004, the German Data Forum (Rat für Sozial- und Wirtschaftsdaten, RatSWD) is an independent council. It advises the German federal government and the federal states (Länder) in matters concerning the research data infrastructure for the empirical social, behavioural, and economic sciences. The German Data Forum (RatSWD) has 16 members. Membership consists of eight elected representatives of the social, behavioural, and economic sciences and eight appointed representatives of Germany’s most important data producers. The German Data Forum (RatSWD) offers a forum for dialogue between researchers and data producers, who jointly issue recommendations and position papers. The council furthers the development of a research infrastructure that provides researchers with flexible and secure access to a broad range of data. The German Data Forum (RatSWD) has accredited 34 research data centres and fosters their interaction and collaboration.