Friday, February 21, 2014

Slight Improvement in Homicide Statistics

The Observatorio de Violencia of the Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Honduras (UNAH) announced over the weekend that 2013 closed out with 6,757 homicides, yielding an average of 79.7 homicides per 100,000 population or about 18.5 homicides per day. 

That's consistent with their prediction that Honduras would close out the year with a homicide rate of 80 per 100.000 population.  Its also a clear improvement over the previous year, when the homicide rate was 85 per 100,000 population.  Honduras's most violent year was 2011, when there were 92 homicides per 100,000 population.

Aruturo Corrales, the Security Minister, however, is not satisfied.

He would have you believe that Honduras improved even more.  He claims his new "official" statistics recorded a homicide rate of 75.1 per 100,000 population, or about 17 per day. 

As we have previously indicated, the problem with his "official" statistics is that he changed the definition of homicide, and the way the information is collected, so that his data cannot be compared with any previous data about the homicide rate in the country.  Corrales relies on the police to collect and evaluate the data but will not make the data publicly available for independent evaluation.  The Observatorio de Violencia, on the other hand, uses a publicly auditable set of procedures to collect and evaluate the homicide data for Honduras, and their data and procedures are available. 

It's a case of "trust me" statistics versus auditable statistics.

Corrales resents being challenged on his sleight of hand with statistics, so much so that he is threatening to create his own official Observatorio de Violencia that would be part of the Security Ministry. 

He also claims Honduras is on track to reduce the homicide rate to 30 per 100,000 population by the end of this year. That would be quite astonishing.

Like a bad statistician, Corrales keeps trying to present short-term statistics as if they represent a lasting change in homicide rates.  Accordingly, he claims the current homicide rate, over the last 37 days (!) is 14 per day.

For some reason, Corrales thinks the fact that homicides are mostly concentrated in just a few municipios (like San Pedro Sula, La Ceiba, and Tegucigalpa) makes the security situation better. True enough: but then, the majority of the population is also concentrated in those few municipios.

Migdonia Ayestas, the Director of the real Observatorio, says the state should think carefully about how it invests its scarce resources, but that even if they do create their own Observatorio de Violencia, the current one at the university will continue.

Julieta Castellanos, Rector of UNAH, added:
Corrales claims all that we do is repeat the numbers that they publish; nonetheless, the data that they process is less than the number of events registered each day and UNAH cannot publish a report that doesn't certify how the data were compiled....I think that he (Corrales) wants the number to be decreasing and we as academics cannot say what isn't true.

Ultimately success will not be measured by statistics, but by how safe the Honduran people feel.  The bad news is that regardless of the source of current homicide statistics for Honduras, it still has the highest homicide rate in the world.

1 comment:

RNS said...

As if to provide Mr. Corrales with a lesson on statistics and why short term trends are meaningless until they're long term trends.....

On Saturday there were 10 murders reported by the Police. On Sunday, that rose to 29 murders!

Sunday was also the first day of the new liquor law that bans sales of alcoholic beverages on Sundays after 5 pm until 11 am Monday. This was supposedly to reduce the crime rate, but appears to have failed on its first day out: