Crime: Interpol



I wondered why the US id not consider Interpol in its proposal to establish and international agency to fight terrorism. I asked: Is it that the US distrusts Interpol because it is based in France, and the US would like an agency based in the US? In that case, the UN would seem to be an obvious candidate. George Sassoon says:
According to my information, Interpol is based in Wiesbaden, Germany, not in France, and is merely a clearing-house for police information. It does not have its own agents, as some popular fiction suggests.  I used to receive its bulletins on the short wave, using FEC transfer protocol.

RH: When it was established it was headquartered ib Lyons, France. It may have moved. It has been active in Mexico, where its agents are described as "Interpol representatives in Mexico",  It would seem qualified to play a role in hunting down terrorists.  We must look into Interpol.

Randy Black writes: Interpol, according to its annual report, is headquartered in Lyons, France, where it employs  431 people from 68 countries. Of that number, 146 are agents/officers. See: www.interpol.int <http://www.interpol.int/>  for more information. I read  its annual report; it has operations worldwide and a sub-office in Wiesbaden, Germany among hundreds of other locales.  See also: http://www.interpol.int/Public/Icpo/default.asp
<http://www.interpol.int/Public/Icpo/default.asp>  


Bill Ratliff writes: A couple of comments on the statistics from the UN Survey of Crime Trends etc. which seem to show the UK, Finland and some other countries as so much more violent and crime-ridden than many WAISers expected, and much more so than many countries which are believed (on the basis of general reading and personal experiences) to be more violent and crime-ridden than the surveys indicate. A couple of precautionary comments have already been sent in and I want to second and third them.

I am just completing a study of organized crime and public sector corruption in cooperation with several of the primarily analysts from precisely the UN agency that collects the crime trends that have been put before us. As the people in the UN agency know, the practice of collecting crime statistics across the world is in its very early infancy, sort of embryo stage. All of us, and the UN analysts, hope that with prodigious effort, adequate funding and massive and improbable good luck, over time these reports will grow up and be more what they seem to be, but are not, at present: that is in any way accurate tools for comparing levels of crime across societies. Not yet, please, as those who collect the data know full well. These reports simply cannot be used for the kinds of comparisons that have been reported in the Daily Telegraph
and some other papers. I too have seen the articles. One study by three UN analysts (published in the December 2003 issue of that same UN Agency's  Forum on Crime and Society warns that "comparing crime statistics from different jurisdictions is a hazardous undertaking." I would only amend that to say very, very hazardous. Just a couple of the problems, according to these analysts, are: definitions of crime are often very different and the collectors of data have to work with the definitions used by each country; levels of funding in different countries, and the quality of personnel compiling the data, vary vastly; the degrees of corruption in the fields of police and justice often vary that much, and again and more; the simple quality of reporting varies enormously from one country to another for all sorts of reasons, from the simple shortage of police stations and telephones at times to, far more fundamentally, how victims and citizens generally regard the police and justice systems in their countries; social norms make it difficult to report rape and some other terrible crimes, etc.  etc.  etc. The aforementioned study by the UN experts concluded, in masterful understatement, that "the data on less-developed countries in the UN surveys of crime trends are not well developed" and " in less-developed countries police-recorded crime data reflect a relatively small part of actual crime." Another UN report from the same agency estimates that in Latin America, for example, only one in five victims of robbery even bothers to report the crime to the police. As I know best from the Latin American case, most Latin Americans have very little, usually absolutely no confidence at all, in either their police or their courts. Check the Latinobarometro polls, the best available by far. In sum, at this point, it is very, very misleading to report the cold data collected in these UN reports without a full understanding of what the really say and in so many case really DON'T say. Alas, those countries that report so much more fully and accurately come out at the end of the day seeming the hotbeds of crime while those countries  where so many consider their police and legal systems simply hopeless come out looking relatively good.  To paraphrase Bilbo Baggins, "Carefully, carefully with those statistics."

RH Last things first.  This is for those who like me had not had the pleasure of meeting Bilbo Baggins: The hero of The Hobbit and Frodo’s cousin and mentor. Bilbo is clever and loves a good joke or song. The effects of having kept the Ring for so long only occasionally mar his thoughtfulness. Bilbo is an object of curiosity in the Shire for his learning and his wandering ways, and he is trying to write a book detailing his many adventures.

RH: My ignorance is due to my addiction to faction, not fiction.  Bill's erudition is due to the fact that his wife owns a large bookstore for children.  Now, more seriously, Bill does not mention Interpol, which would seem to be involved in these matters.  Moreover,  the US government is proposing an international center to track down terrorists. Isn't that within the field of action of Interpol?  Is it that the US distrusts Interpol because it is based in France, and the US would like an agency based in the US,  In that case, the UN would seem to be an obvious candidate.

We discussed the possible role of Interpol in tracking down terrorists.  That it does have an important role was evident from a BBC interview with its Secretary General, Ronald Nobel. Google gives ample information about him and Interpol's role in the fight against terrorism.


Ronald Hilton 2004

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last updated: February 28, 2005