A leaked report shows crime in the Netherlands to be severely more prevalent than reported. The reliability of statistics that were previously used to paint a less gloomy picture are called into question. The report was supposed to be presented to the Dutch government after the parliamentary elections of March 2017, but it is now in the hands of the Dutch newspaper Trouw.

The researchers behind the report fear a continuing downward trend of public trust in the rule of law within society. Criminals are now “acting like there’s no chance of getting caught“.

This leak is in sharp contrast with statements made by the country’s Justice Minister, Ard van der Steur. He closed prisons in early 2016, and recently noted the number of burglaries to have dropped significantly. Van der Steur’s view seems to be supported by the chief economist of the Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS), Peter van Mulligen. The research he mentions shows a consistent downward trend in crime rates, and reports that people now feel safer than before.

However, statistics are only as good as the data that is used. The newly leaked report shows great insight into the statistical workings of these favourable downward trends portrayed by the government.

The perceived and factual lack of personnel in all branches of law enforcement is the main reason civilians are no longer bothering to report crimes. The past decade shows a 23% drop in willingness to report burglary and theft.

A drop in reported crimes, therefore does not necessarily correspond with a drop in actual crime, as Van der Steur falsely suggested. Researchers infer that civilians have grown accustomed to burglaries and inaction by police. Based on the Safety Monitor for 2015, there were an estimated 4,500,000 crimes in the Netherlands. However, only 960,000 crimes were registered by the police. 57% of the crimes that were reported, were never investigated, mainly due to lack of leads. Only 186,000 cases eventually made it to court, approximately 18% of registered crime and a mere 4,1% of the estimated overall crime in 2015.

These researchers are not alone in their concerns. In March 2016 both mayors of the largest Dutch cities, the head of Dutch police, as well as one the largest Police Unions voiced their concerns about proposed further budget cuts.