Sri Lanka’s reported grave crimes plunge, homicides fall

ECONOMYNEXT – While high profile criminal acts and gang violence have grabbed headlines, nation-wide police data show a sharp decline in reported grave crimes in recent years, a trend seemed to have begun since a civil war that claimed thousands of lives ended in 2009.

In 2015, 40,188 grave crimes were reported, down from 50,962 in 2014, of which 58 percent were solved by the year end, with 42 percent unsolved (being investigated) a report on police performance filed with the parliament showed.

In 2016, reported grave crimes again fell to 36,917 while unsolved cases (being investigated) also fell to 27 percent, or down to 10,068 from 16,613.

In 2017, reported crimes were down to 35,979 and being unsolved cases were down to 7,963 or 22 percent.

The fall in overall grave crimes appeared to have begun after a civil war ended in 2009. This was despite areas previously under the Tamil Tigers also coming under the central government police.

In 2008, 60,870 grave crimes were reported, according to police data, and it fell to 57,340 in 2009. By 2015, grave crimes were down by a third to 40,188.

Reports of homicide and abetment to commit suicide were listed at 1,488 in 2008, while there were 397 attempted murders, making a total of 1,885 incidents.

By 2017, homicides were listed as 452, attempted homicide/abetting suicide was listed as 163 or a total of 615 incidents.

In a breakdown of grave crimes, reported abductions fell from 725 in 2015 to 647 in 2017, but kidnappings rose from 246 to 251.

Cases of reported burglary fell from 12,707 in 2015 to 8,913 in 2017.





Rapes (of adult women) fell from 379 to 294, and rapes of women less than 16 years fell 315 to 232. Statutory rape with the consent of the victim fell from 1,339 to 1,206,

There was also a decline in grave crimes against children down from 3,475 in 2015, to 2,911 in 2017, according to the report.

However grave drug crimes were sharply up from 1,641 to 2,845. Grave crimes were listed as "importing, exporting, selling or production of any amount of morphine, cocaine or heroin or possession of 1 kilo of hashish, 5 kilos or more of cannabis, 500 grams or more of opium, 03 grams or more of morphine, 02 grams or more of cocaine and 02 grams or more of heroin.:

There were also an increase overall drug offence and police raids. In 2015 there had been 90,408 cases relating to intoxicants and police had seized 13,549 kilograms of drugs of which 13,254 were cannabis.

In 2016, 36 tonnes of cannabis had been seized, which had fallen to 19.7 tonnes in 2017. After the end of the war, there has been increased smuggling of cannabis from India, according to media reports. Cannabis/marijuana has been decriminalized in several countries.

Suicides were also up.

It is not clear whether the fall in grave crimes is due to a change in classification or more officers being available for routine policing and crime fighting after the civil war ended.

"Despite the fact that there is a decline in grave crimes during the past few years, they still seem to exist posing a great threat to the society," the police report said.

"Therefore, a collective effort with the participation of all parties is required to minimize grave crimes."

If the statistics are correct, a current outcry about criminal activity may be due to an anecdotal fallacy, where people arrive at conclusions based on unrepresentative evidence, analysts say.

It could also be related to a phenomenon, known as confirmation bias, where people focus only on information that support their beliefs or theories, while ignoring any contrary evidence (cherry picking).

Politicians, especially so-called ‘law and order’ or nationalist candidates are also known to create false impressions about crime in a bid to promote authoritarian rule.

Donald Trump, who has the backing of Christian evangelists and white nationalists, cited false crime data or cherry picked data to present himself as a ‘law and order’ candidate, as opposed to a person who promotes rule of law and justice (Trump incorrectly says murders are up in New York).

In the US violent crimes such as homicides have been falling steadily since 1993, but there have been changes in individual cities. The changes also appear large in some years because the base became low as crimes fell, fact-checkers who examined Trump’s lies found.

Observers say in countries where there are extra-judicial killings and suspects die in police custody, people will naturally distrust police statistics and it will be easy to fuel conspiracy theories.

After the 1971 and 1979 constitution broke the civil service commission, making once permanent secretaries impermanent, and allowing outsiders to be made ministry secretaries, critics have said that the police was transformed from an institution that protected the people, into a ‘Gestapo’ that protected the rulers, while only the label was retained.

However after a constitutional council was set up in 2015 the police is chief is no longer appointed directly by the President. It is not clear however whether politicians still have the ability to transfer or punish officers who insist on catching criminals or solving cases. (Colombo/July10/2018)

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