TAIWAN: Despite Spate of Grisly Murders, Crime Data Makes for Reassuring Reading

TAIWAN: Despite Spate of Grisly Murders, Crime Data Makes for Reassuring Reading

What you need to know

Sensational stories of murder in Taiwan have sparked fears of crumbling social order, but police data tell a different story.

Reports of grizzly murders and social misconduct have proliferated recently, begging the question as to whether Taiwan’s social order is deteriorating.

This article uses official government crime data to show the changes in the number of criminal cases in Taiwan each year, over the past 25 years.

Since May 13, the news has featured several sensational stories, including a grandmother being killed by her grandchild, a dental surgeon being murdered, a person being dismembered after being killed by their lover, a TV broadcaster being stabbed to death, to name just a few high-profile homicide cases.

In addition, a Kuomintang think tank recently held a press conference to discuss Taiwan’s perceived economic downturn and the potential impact this has had on social order. A spokesman at the conference said that, according to official police statistics, the total number of "crimes" committed in 2013 was 255,000, a number which has since increased year on year to reach 287,000 in 2017. As such, the conference organizers suggested that social disorder in Taiwan is getting worse and harder to control, but is this really the case?


First off, let’s look at the so-called rise in the number of "crimes". According to the National Police Agency (NPA), the police compiled the aforementioned statistics based on "people who have been investigated at any level by the police and found to be suspected of committing a crime, who are then dealt with by the law."

So, while the the numbers are accurate, the press conference actually cited the number of "suspects" involved in criminal cases -- the data was collected prior to the two stages of judicial review and judgment required before a suspect is declared guilty and sentenced. Another important fact to note is that there can be more than one suspect in a criminal case.


When it comes to data on the number of criminal cases, the above graph shows that criminal cases peaked in Taiwan in 2005, and has steadily declined ever since. From 1992 to 2005, the number of cases increased progressively each year, save for a slight dip between 1996 and 1999. Yet after 2005, the number of cases has continually decreased year after year.

However, we can go a step further and look at the changes in each crime category. Police separate crimes into three major categories: theft, violent conduct and other criminal offences.

Over the years, these three categories have displayed different trends. Cases of theft have decreased year-on-year since 2005; from 300,000 in 2005 to just over 50,000 in 2017, a decrease of approximately 83 percent.


Cases of violent conduct also started to gradually decline after 2005; from 14,304 in 2005 to just 1,260 in 2017.


As for "other" criminal offences, the opposite trend applies. Since 1998, the number of other offences has continually increased, and in recent years has exceeded 200,000 per year. Other criminal offenses include handling stolen goods, gambling, general bodily harm, fraud, narcotics offenses, restriction of freedom, negligent driving, disturbances of the peace, firearms, ammunition or weapons offenses, public endangerment, and so on.


Aggravated assault and homicide cases

The criminal cases that have grabbed headlines recently all involve aggravated assault and murder, which are classed as violent conduct, according to the NPA.

So, are cases of aggravated assault and murder on the rise in Taiwan?

The following graph shows the change in the amount of aggravated assault and murder cases from 1992 to 2017.


In fact, despite the spate of high-profile recent cases, the data shows that aggravated assault and murder in Taiwan is declining , with the number of cases in recent years holding below 500 each year.

This article originally appeared on the Chinese-language Taiwan edition of The News Lens. The original can be found here.

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Translator: Zeke Li

Editor: David Green