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Optimization of Existing Criminal Statistics Systems

The German Data Forum (ed.):
WG for the Optimization of Existing Criminal Statistics Systems in Germany.
Recommendations of the Working Group “Optimization of existing criminal statistics systems” chaired by Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Heinz, University of Konstanz.
Nomos Verlagsgesellschaft (Nomos Publications), Baden-Baden 2009.

Two indispensable necessities for any evidence-based criminal law policy are sound and reliable statistics and empirical findings. Without empirical foundations science cannot undertake realistic investigations. Additionally, administrations and judicial systems cannot be steered to overcome problems without efficient statistics and empirical evidence.

The German Data Forum (RatSWD) took on this problem and organised two events in October 2006 and April 2008, entitled “Data Problems in Criminal Law Administration Statistics” and “What would we like to know? Criminal Statistics in Light of International Experience,” respectively. In July 2007, the Council created a working group whose task it was to make suggestions for the optimization of existing criminal statistics systems in Germany. These suggestions are envisaged to be implemented the short, middle and long term.

Current, valid and reliable statistics form a necessary condition for evidence-based criminal policy. Without such statistics, science can neither conduct sensible, pragmatic inquiries nor can any administration direct its area of responsibility in a problem-orientated manner. Currently available statistics, however, fulfil requirements only partially and to differing degrees.

On account of this, the German Data Forum appointed an eleven-member “Working Group for the Optimization of Existing Criminal Statistics Systems.” The meeting of this working group occurred in Berlin in July 2007 and involved representatives from academia, the German Federal Statistics Office, German State Statistics Bureaus, the Lower Saxony Department of Justice, the German Federal Ministry of the Interior, the German Federal Ministry of Justice and the German Federal Criminal Police Office.

Status: The WG has completed its work successfully.

Members of the Working Group:

  • Dr. Richard Blath, German Federal Ministry of Justice
  • Stefan Brinks, German Federal Statistical Office
  • Prof. Dr. Rudolf Egg, Central Department for Criminology (registered association)
  • Prof. Dr. Horst Entorf, University of Frankfurt
  • Dr. Burkhard Hasenpusch, Lower Saxony Department of Justice
  • Prof. Dr. Wolgang Heinz, University of Konstanz (chairman)
  • Prof. Dr. Jörg-Martin Jehle, University of Göttingen
  • Prof. Dr. Hans-Jürgen Kerner, University of Tübingen
  • Dr. Robert Mischkowitz, German Federal Criminal Police Office
  • Dr. Tobias Plate, German Federal Ministry of the Interior
  • Katja Tanneberger, Lower Saxony State Office for Statistics and Communications Technology

The task of the working group was to develop recommendations for improving the status quo within one year. The working group delivered its final report to the German Data Forum in September 2008.

For the short and medium term realizable improvements of existing criminal statistics systems, the working group recommends:

  1. collecting additional data, especially with the assistance of victims’ surveys based on a model of foreign “Victim Surveys”, as well as defendants’ and relapse statistics,
  2. optimising the comparative potential of statistics through better coordination,
  3. assuring comprehensive, all-encompassing and continuous implementation through the creation of a legal foundation,
  4. minimizing the loss of data during preparation and processing, and
  5. providing thorough access to the users of the data.

Fundamental shortcomings cannot, however, be overcome via the above recommendations. On the basis of successful foreign examples, the working group suggests to give up the hitherto system of individual statistics in favour of a single statistical database with personal data stored under pseudonyms. In this manner, Germany may catch up with the progress of other, already advanced systems in neighbouring European countries. The necessary organisational and legal measures, future reporting path, the preparation and processing of annual state and federal statistics as well as the use of retrospective and prospective statistics are presented in this publication.

The German Data Forum adopted these recommendations at its meeting on October 10th, 2008. The final report was published as a book by NOMOS Verlag (Publishers) in 2009.

What would we like to know? Criminal Statistics in Light of International Experience.
This topic was addressed by the symposium of the Central Department for Criminology (registered association) and the German Data Forum on the 17th-18th April, 2008, in Berlin.

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