Friday, December 02, 2011

India's Unknown Crime Rate

I was going through India's Crime Statistics for 2010, which can be found at the National Crime Records Bureau here (just click on Crime in India 2010 in the left column). I found that the records seemed to tell more about the failure to report most crimes in India rather than what the actual crime rate in India is. According to the government's statistics the highest reported crime rate is in Kerala, followed closely by Pondicherry. This should immediately strike one as odd because one does not usually think of Kerala or Pondicherry as the most crime-ridden parts of India.

Indeed, the National Crime Records Bureau seems to back this up, in part, thereby betraying the weakness of police reporting in most states in India. When one looks at the murder rate, Kerala is actually the second safest state or union territory in India. Only in Lakshadweep are you less likely to be killed, and that is because there were no reported murders in Lakshadweep last year.

Murders are far more likely to be reported than other crimes, especially in states with weak governance. In fact, few murders will ever not be reported. Therefore, it is probably safer to use the murder rate as a proxy for the actual crime rate when there is such weak reporting of crime, either because victims do not come forward or the police do not record their complaints when they do.

The following Chart uses the government's 2010 crime records to compare reported crime rates vs. reported murder rates (per 100,000 persons) and then rank the states from worst to best in crime rates and murder rates. The results are fairly striking


Crime Rate Murder Rate Cr Rank M Rank
AP 215.7 3 13 16
ARUNACHAL 197.5 6.1 16 1
ASSAM 199.1 3.9 15 8
BIHAR 131.1 3.5 26 9
CHHATTISGARH 224 4.3 11 5
GOA 188.9 2 19 27
GUJARAT 200.1 1.8 14 31
HARYANA 240.4 4.1 9 7
HIMACHAL 195.1 2 17 29
J&K 173.8 1.6 20 33
JHARKHAND 125.7 5.5 27 2
KARNATAKA 242 3.1 8 15
KERALA 424.1 1 1 34
MP 297.2 3.4 4 11
MAHARASHTRA 189.2 2.5 18 22
MANIPUR 100.5 3.4 29 10
MEGHALAYA 96 5.1 30 3
MIZORAM 215.7 4.8 12 4
NAGALAND 47.1 2 35 28
ORISSA 138.3 3.2 23 13
PUNJAB 134.4 3.3 24 12
RAJASTHAN 242.8 2.1 7 25
SIKKIM 90.5 2.8 32 18
TAMIL NADU 274.5 2.8 6 19
TRIPURA 160.8 4.1 21 6
U. PRADESH 87.5 2.2 33 23
UTTARAKHAND 94.1 1.8 31 32
WEST BENGAL 143.7 2.7 22 20
ANDAMANS 226.9 2.1 10 26
CHANDIGARH 299.8 1.9 3 30
D&N 133.6 2.1 25 24
DAMAN 101.5 2.5 28 21
DELHI 279.8 3.1 5 14
LAKSHADWEEP 58.3 0 34 35
PUDUCHERRY 352.3 3 2 17

Kerala ranks 1st for crime rate, but 34th for murders; Puducherry 2nd for crime rate, but 17th for murders; Chandigarh 3rd for crimes, but 30th for murders, etc. In fact, the only place that seems to rank as one of the top ten worst places for both murders and crime overall is Haryana - this is likely because although it's more developed and reports more crimes, it also might actually just have a high crime rate.

Overall, the impression you get from government statistics though is that as development goes up the murder rate goes down, but the crime rate goes up. It's likely most of this is a reporting problem and better developed states report all crimes - both murder and otherwise - fairly well, while poorer states only report murders consistently.

That said, there is another theory worth considering, which is that the government's statistics are correct, or largely correct, and do reflect the actual situation on the ground. Perhaps, wealthier states just have more opportunities for things to be stolen or fraud perpetrated, etc., but have better solved the murder problem. Therefore, their crime rates are higher, even if you are less likely to be murdered there. Perhaps . . .
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