Verdict: FactCheck leaves Grigol Vashadze’s statement WITHOUT VERDICT.
Resume: In accordance with the data of January-August 2018, registered crime has increased by 58.46% as compared to the same period of the previous year. However, the increase in registered crime might not automatically mean an increased crime rate and may not depict the real picture.
Such a sharp increase in registered crime in a short period of time, in light of the rapidly declining number of solved crimes, raises a reasonable suspicion in regard to the reliability of the statistical data published in the previous years. Therefore, it is possible that the unprecedented growth in registered crime was stipulated by disclosing the real picture and not by the actual deterioration of the criminogenic situation. However, we should not disregard the latter supposition either.
Therefore, publishing incomplete statistical data on crime for a number for years renders it impossible to make straightforward judgments in regard to the crime rate.
United opposition Strength is in Unity alliance candidate for the Georgian presidency, Grigol Vashadze, stated that the crime rate in Georgia had increased by 50%.
In accordance with the data of January-August 2018, the number of crimes registered by all investigative bodies of Georgia has increased by 14,233; that is, by 58.46% as compared to the same period of the previous year. Specifically, whilst there were only 24,345 crimes registered in January-August 2017, this figure has so far reached 38,578 in 2018. Of note is that the number of registered crimes in the first eight months of 2018 already exceeds the total number of registered crimes (37,944) in the entire 12 months (one year) of 2017.
Graph 1: Number of Crimes Registered by all Investigative Bodies of Georgia (2013-2018)
Source: Ministry of Internal Affairs of Georgia
In regard to the number of solved crimes, this figure dropped by 16.58 percentage points in 2018 as compared to 2017. Specifically, if in January-August 2017 the share of solved crime was 52.76%, it dropped to 36.18% in the same period of 2018.
It is true that the number of registered crimes has indeed increased by more than 50%. However, the growth in registered crimes might not automatically mean a growth in criminal activity and thereby may not give the real picture. Specifically, it is possible that such a sharp growth was caused by certain changes in the methodology of crime rate calculation, improved registration rules, pursuing a stricter policy against certain types of crimes or even by an increased amount of crime reporting. In addition, a sharp growth in the crime rate may also be stipulated by publishing incomplete (hidden) statistics in the previous years (as compared to 2018).
FactCheck has previously written about these suspicions which arise by a sudden and obvious growth of crime, on the one hand, and by an evident decline in figures relating to solved crimes, on the other hand (see FactCheck’s article 1, article 2, article 3). Of interest is that these changes became evident after the appointment of the new Minister of Internal Affairs who opted for an increased transparency policy in regard to crime and promised to provide the public with a real (and possibly unpleasant) picture about crime in the country. The Institute for the Development of Freedom of Information (IDFI) also harbours doubts about the sharp changes in the number of registered crimes within a short period of time. As stated by the IDFI, the sharp increase in registered crimes might be related to the publishing of incomplete (fraudulent) crime statistics in previous years and not to the deterioration of the criminogenic situation per se. The IDFI’s statement reads: “Without any significant changes in methodology or other exceptional preconditions, the sharp deterioration of the criminogenic situation and police performance in a short period of time give rise to important doubts about the reliability of the statistics published in the previous years.” The IDFI has also called the Ministry of Internal Affairs for investigation of a possible falsification of criminal statistics in the previous years.
Of additional note is that the suspicion about publishing incomplete data in the previous years is abetted by the statement of the Minister of Internal Affairs, Giorgi Gakharia, itself which says that the sharp increase in registered crime is stipulated by the new course of the Ministry and its resolve to demonstrate a real statistical picture. On 18 May 2018, in his speech before the Parliament of Georgia, Mr Gakharia stated: “We are not afraid to say that in terms of quarterly statistics (referring to January-March 2018), there is a 39% growth in crime as compared to the previous year which is a serious number. However, it has a simple explanation. In order to make sure that the plan for reforms is adequate, we need an accurate assessment of the picture. We have to see the present situation for subsequent assessment planning and execution. Therefore, it makes no sense for us to hide these statistics. Especially, in light of the belief we have invested in our plans.”
If we assume that the published statistical data were indeed incomplete in the last years and, therefore, the number of crimes was higher as compared to the official statistical data, then a 58% growth in crime could have a logical explanation which excludes an alarming deterioration of the criminogenic situation in a short period of time. However, even under this assumption it may very well be that a deterioration of the criminogenic situation is really the case.
Unfortunately, publishing incomplete criminal statistics for years renders it impossible to make certain judgments in regard to the crime rate. Of further note is that it is impossible to assess the country’s criminogenic situation solely by the number of registered crimes. To do this, it is necessary for the state to sufficiently fulfill its obligation, compile and publish relevant statistical reports (an obligation taken by a memorandum signed in 2010) and, most importantly, carry out victimology research, considered to be one of the most efficient means to assess a criminogenic situation, on a regular basis. Victimology research corresponding to international standards was first carried out in 2010 in Georgia but has stopped since 2012 and has not been resumed. FactCheck was unable to determine the reasons for the stoppage in victimology research.