When fig­ures are not facts

Auckland City Harbour News - - OPINION -

‘‘Ullo, ullo, ullo – what’s go­ing on here then?’’ was the cliche in the days when po­lice­men rode bikes to the scenes of crimes – ‘‘of­fences’’ as they say in their trade – like kids raid­ing or­chards or pock­et­ing milk money left at fam­ily gates.

Then the PCs parked their bikes care­fully, took off bike clips from around their an­kles be­fore pro­duc­ing a note­book to take down names, ages, place of birth and ad­dresses.

That process doesn’t fit in to­day’s cli­mate of radar speed cam­era on roads, Taser guns on tough guys and elec­tronic gad­gets on an­kles re­lay­ing the ex­act place where crims are at any given time. If they’re still in the coun­try, that is.

Nor would some equiv­a­lent process like that have au­to­mat­i­cally pre­vented the brief but em­bar­rass­ing los­ing of con­victed mur­derer and sex of­fender Phillip John Smith (who is ac­tu­ally Phillip John Traynor, now briefly, we trust, of Rio de Janeiro).

That faulty sys­tem in which po­lice failed to check a birth­place, date and real name – and the court sys­tem has fol­lowed suit in trial after trial – bet­ter not hap­pen again. Nei­ther should the ‘‘wait and see’’ re­ac­tion from de­part­men­tal heads who failed to sound alarm as soon as his es­cape was ob­vi­ous.

Then there was that Bee­hive clanger which had then Po­lice Min­is­ter Anne Tolley tak­ing to­tally false fig­ures to the Cab­i­net and quot­ing them pub­licly as the rea­son for a pro­jected drive against gangs. How wrong? You be the judge. Her wor­ry­ing statis­tics were: ‘‘Four thou­sand gang mem­bers were re­spon­si­ble for 1517 se­ri­ous drug and vi­o­lence crimes be­tween Janu- ary and April this year.’’

Wrong! The ac­tual fig­ures were 26 out of 649 se­ri­ous drug charges against gang mem­bers and 61 of 868 vi­o­lence charges.

So­ci­ol­o­gist and gang re­searcher Dr Jar­rod Gil­bert blew the whis­tle on that which prompted a spokesman in the of­fice of new Po­lice Min­is­ter Michael Woodhouse to draw heav­ily from Yes, Min­is­ter scripts.

Wrong fig­ures? His re­sponse (Sir Humphrey would have been proud of him): ‘‘It is un­for­tu­nate that some fig­ures re­quired clar­i­fi­ca­tion.’’ Or even a cor­rec­tion. Maybe the ac­tual fig­ures sug­gest that any de­ci­sions made on the false ‘‘facts’’ need a sec­ond look.

Like fig­ures in a new re­port on New Zealand fam­ily vi­o­lence from the panel set up by Sir Owen Glenn.

Their fig­ures quoted economist Suzanne Snively and Sher­ilee Kahui as say­ing ‘‘fam­ily vi­o­lence cost New Zealand be­tween $4.1 bil­lion and $7b a year’’.

Snively’s last es­ti­mate in 1994 was $1b.

When the higher fig­ure of $7b was chal­lenged, in­quiry spokes­woman Marie McNi­cholas de­clined to com­ment. She re­ferred ques­tions to Snively.

Snively said the data was pre­pared by Kahui.

Kahui said the $7b ‘‘high-end’’ fig­ure was added after ex­perts in Auck­land and Wellington said they be­lieved the true do­mes­tic vi­o­lence vic­tim­i­sa­tion rates were higher than the ‘‘mod­er­ate sce­nario’’ rates of 18.2 per cent for women and 1.9 per cent for men.

‘‘We were strug­gling to find em­pir­i­cal ev­i­dence of an es­ti­mate that would be higher than 18.2 per cent so it was about find­ing some­thing higher.’’

Per­haps the rea­son was that they were strug­gling too hard ‘‘to find some­thing higher’’ be­cause there wasn’t any­thing higher.

Are the panel go­ing to ex­plain, prefer­ably in sim­ple fig­ures and words of one syl­la­ble? In the postbag:

‘‘Your col­umn (on Auck­land Coun­cil moves to en­force com­pul­sory paint­ing of roofs, to avoid rain caus- ing the spread of zinc) caught my eye.

‘‘Are you aware the Auck­land Coun­cil’s sports-field ca­pac­ity pro­gramme in­volves ap­prox­i­mately 37 field sur­faces to be in­stalled us­ing (re­cy­cled tyre) crumb rub­ber over the next 10 years?

‘‘The crumb rub­ber has zinc among its leachates/toxic con­tents.’’ – Brian Carter, Mt Al­bert

PB: Thank you. No, I wasn’t aware but I am now – watch this space.

Name please: Phillip Smith shortly after his ar­rest in Brazil.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from New Zealand

© PressReader. All rights reserved.