Saturday, August 31, 2013
Wall Street Journal
August 30, 2013
Recent media reports of horrific rapes in India depict a country where every woman is in danger of being assaulted at any time. Official crime statistics tell a very different story.
Last year, there were 24,923 cases of rape in India, according to the government's official statistics. That's about two per 100,000 Indians. The per capita rate in the U.S. is more than 13 times higher.
According to criminologists, these surprising numbers are among many that suggest a need for, well, better numbers. Official figures include only crimes reported to police. What criminologists call the "dark figure" of unreported crime isn't captured, and those missing incidents can greatly outnumber reported ones, especially for rape. The rate of underreporting can also vary sharply by country. And a nation that makes headway in encouraging more victims to come forward will appear, in its official stats, to have a worsening rape problem.
"Comparing countries can be very misleading, particularly for a crime like rape," said Angela Me, chief of the Vienna-based research and trend-analysis branch of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. Murder is easier to analyze, she said, because "it is hard to cover up homicide."
Criminologists have long been aware of the need to supplement official stats. The usual method is to survey people about crimes they've experienced. Such surveys typically yield much higher numbers. But they can be very expensive.
Posted by Yulie Foka at 8:21 AM