ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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How Real Is the Crime Decline in India?

Since 1991 in India, the crime rates of both property-related crimes and violent crimes, except crimes against women, have fallen significantly. While the decreasing trend is undisputed in Western nations, the perception in India is that the crime data has been manipulated by the police. The examination of constituent units composed of a diverse selection of districts in India suggests that the trends are generally similar across the country and are not an outcome of deliberate police practices. Police practices do not present any evidence of geographical bias in the registration of crime.

Official crime rates have been declining from the 1990s everywhere around the globe. The dramatic decline of property-related crimes and violent crimes was first noticed in the United States (US) and subsequently around the world (Blumstein and Wallman 2006; Tseloni et al 2010;Mayhew 2012). Most researchers accept this decline while some dissenting voices claim that the police are playing the numbers’ game (Karmen 2000; Eterno et al 2016). A similar declining trend has been reported from India too (Ansari et al 2015). Since 1990, crime rates in India have displayed a downward trend, except for crimes against women that in contrast have gone up sharply. While there seems to be broad consensus that the plummeting numbers in Western democracies are real, in India, the general perception is completely opposite to the official data (CHRI 2015). The media constantly highlights specific criminal incidents and crimes against women are splashed across national headlines, which suggest growing insecurity and victimisation in the country (Salve 2017). That there are less incidents of reported crime in comparison to the past is not acknowledged even by the police leadership.

Police agencies around the world face criticism about the crime statistics that they record and report. The rise in crime rates is generally received in alarm, as a sign of failure to prevent citizen victimisation. However, declining rates are dismissed as under-reporting by the police everywhere (Home Office 2014; BBC News 2013; Langton 2012). In India, the difficulty in lodging complaints with the police and the minimisation of the seriousness of the offence further erode trust in official data (Verma 2000). Unfortunately, regular victim surveys have not been done in India to facilitate a comparison and provide alternate measures of crime. Nevertheless, the decline in official crime rates over a 20-year period in such a vast country cannot be deliberate, or an outcome of a national conspiracy to downsize the numbers. This common disbelief about declining trends, hence, presents a significant puzzle.

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Updated On : 18th Nov, 2019

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