Friday, January 27, 2012

Lies, Damned Lies and Press Releases

Are the Coalition REALLY understaffing stations in South West Sydney?

On one set of figures, sure. In this Daily Terror story, we see the following:

(blogger isn't letting me upload photos, so I'll copy and paste)

   WESTERN Sydney police were understaffed while dealing with a frightening spate of drive-by shootings, while in the Premier's north shore electorate there were more than enough officers.
   As of December 31, the southwest metropolitan region had just 2305 police officers - 44 less than it should have.
   In Bankstown, there were 260 officers on duty even though the authorised strength of the command was 272, and there was also fewer officers in shooting hotspots Cabramatta and Fairfield.
   The shortfall came despite a police class graduating in mid-December and the fact the force was overstaffed state-wide, with 16,092 officers compared to 15,806 budgeted for by the state government. In Barry O'Farrell's Ku-ring-gai electorate, there were 174 officers - four more than the authorised strength of 170.

Assuming those numbers are correct, it is clear that the Ku Ring Gai numbers are higher (as a percentage of the "authorised strength") than the numbers in some SouthWest Sydney Local Area Commands.

What interested me was how fair those numbers are.  As the old saying goes, "lies, damned lies and statistics".

We are told the numbers in Ku Ring Gai - 174 officers (102.3%).  We are told the total for South West Metro Region - 2305 officers (98.1%).  Interesting, the only LAC we are given numbers for is Bankstown - 260 officers (95.6%).

I think it's fair to assume that those Bankstown numbers are the very worst the writer of the press release could find.

Labor also had a news item on their website that explained that Rockdale LAC is presently "three officers short" but does not tell us what their budgeted figure is.

What interested me in all this was a population comparison.  How do the population figures between the areas compare? Does that explain the difference?

The only LAC's that we have figures for Bankstown (260/272) and Ku Ring Gai (174/170), so we'll compare those.

Unfortunately, it's a little hard to work out what the population of the LAC's are.  What I've done is refer to the NSW police website to work out what postcodes are included in each of those 2 LAC's, and then used the 2006 census figures to work out the approximate population of those LAC's.

Imperfect, but I don't think NSW Police will respond to a media enquiry from me, so you're stuck with it.  First is the postcode, second is the population in 2006.

KU RING GAI (174/170)

Arcadia, Berrilee, Fiddletown, Galston 5103
Asquith, Hornsby, Hornsby Heights, Waitara 32 280
Berowra, Cowan 4 867
Berowra Heights, Berowra Waters 5 180
Brooklyn 1 699
Canoelands, Forest Glen, Glenorie 3 161
Dural, Middle Dural 7 907
East Killara, Killara 11 824
Gordon 5 993
Mount Colah 6 975
Mount Kuring-Gai 1 550
Normanhurst, North Wahroonga, Wahroonga 21 715
North Turramurra, South Turramurra, Turramurra, Warrawee 19 808
Pymble, West Pymble 14 096
St Ives, St Ives Chase 17 334
Thornleigh, Westleigh 19 028
TOTAL 178 520

BANKSTOWN (260/272)

Bankstown, Bankstown Aerodrome, Condell Park 37 958
Bass Hill 7 224
Birrong, Potts Hill 6 755
Chester Hill, Sefton 14 877
Chullora, Greenacre, Mount Lewis 22 462
East Hills, Panania, Picnic Point 19 511
Georges Hall 8 049
Lansdowne, Villawood 11 716
Milperra 3 887
Padstow, Padstow Heights 14 484
Revesby,Revesby Heights 13 853
Yagoona 14 876
TOTAL 175 652

So, Ku Ring Gai, with its 174 officers, and 178 520 residents, has 1 officer for every 1026 residents, whilst Bankstown, with 260 officers and 175 652 residents, has 1 officer for every 676 residents. In fairness, those numbers are based on the 2006 census but on the 2011 police numbers, and the LAC may not fit precisely with the suburb demarcation, but I think I've made my point.

That's not even considering the fact that, as I look at a map, Ku Ring Gai has a far bigger area than Bankstown, which all things being equal should mean it would need more officers to cover it.

My point?  I think it's fair to assume that the Terror's story is based on a Labor Press Release.  I don't have a copy of that release, but the above analysis took me about an hour of poking around (admittedly as I tried to watch the Australian Open Semi Final), and how many journalists have that long to spend on research?

And, if it is in fact all taken from a Labor press release, it just goes to show how you can use statistics to prove almost anything.

Lies, damned lies, and statistics indeed.


  1. Great analysis. Would be interested to see the analysis when they release the next police strength figures. (See this article in December 2011 about a change in reporting to exclude those on sick or stress leave

    Also, the bigger area rationale falls apart with the comment "all things being equal" - it's unlikely to be a simple equation and in particular, this approach would be cost-prohibitive in regional NSW, i.e. "western".

    Regardless, totally agree that good journalism involves decent research rather than taking someone's release.

  2. It's Feb, and the Police site hasn't put up fresh police strength numbers since Dec, when they've previously done so monthly.
    Am disappointed as was looking forward to see what happened when they excluded sick/stress leave.