NYC, “Safest Big City,” Systematically Falsifying Crime Statistics

Every gun controller’s favorite Mayor, Michael Bloomberg, is awfully proud of his city’s crimefighting record. He never misses a chance to tell someone holding a mic that New York is the safest big city in the country. And he usually trots this claim out following a gang-related shooting or when a cop takes a bullet in the line of duty. Right after first decrying the prevalence of guns in America, that is . . .

In fact, Hizzoner practically busted his buttons during last weekend’s National Night Out, blowing the New York safety horn yet again. nypost.com has the quote:

“The proof is in the numbers. Take a look crime here is down 36 percent from where it was in 2001,” he (said) at a block party hosted by the 32nd Precinct in Harlem. “Since 2001, the NYPD had cut crime citywide by 32 percent and made this the safest big city in the nation.”

That’s a hell of an impressive stat. It would be even more impressive if it were true. According to a little-noticed piece at HuffPo last week, the NYPD has been systematically understating the city’s crime statistics for years.

The practice of manufacturing artificially low crime rates increased substantially after 2002 under Mayor Michael Bloomberg and his police commissioner Raymond Kelly. New research based on interviews with 2,000 retired police officers from the NYPD reveals pervasive, system-wide corruption of criminal records and police practices. This research suggests that concern with the department’s reputation for reducing crime, much more than with public safety, drives police policy.

How is this done? Simple. Cops simply downgrade the severity of reported crimes in the department’s crime-tracking system. An artful turn of phrase and voila! A felony sexual assault becomes simple battery.

But hey, they’re only statistics, right? Bits and bites that get passed onto the FBI for their Uniform Crime Reports. That stuff only really matter to numbers geeks, mayors and the local chamber of commerce. Except when potentially actionable data is compromised and cops on the street are directed to other parts of the city than where they’re really needed.

The consequences of downgrading or not reporting crimes can be severe. For example, in 2010 recently retired Detective Harold Hernandez revealed to Village Voice reporter Graham Rayman that a series of sexual assault-robberies in Washington Heights had been downgraded from serious felonies to misdemeanors. As a result, the NYPD missed the crime pattern and allowed a sexual predator to remain at large for at least two months and to commit six more rapes.

Let’s be real, though. This kind of thing probably happens in every big city. Smaller ones too, at least to some extent. Except it’s gotten a lot worse since 2001 when Mayor Mike and Chief Cop Kelly took the helm.

Researchers compared interviews with over two thousand retired cops (the only ones who feel free to speak without possibility of retribution). Of those who retired before 1995, 25% reported they’d seen reports falsified. Cops retiring between 1996 and 2001 saw it 28% of the time.

However, in the Kelly/Bloomberg era (2002 and after) over half the officers — 51 percent — had observed the intentional misclassification of serious crimes as petty offenses and other unethical practices, typically multiple times. Officers also reported that since 2002 they had experienced unusually strong pressures from supervisors to downgrade crimes and keep crime numbers low.

So under-reporting serious crime in New York has basically doubled under the Bloomberg/Kelly regime. It’s almost as if all those “safest big city in the country” proclamations are just smoke and mirrors intended to make residents think they’re safer than they really are. Not to mention justifying the city’s ridiculously restrictive gun control laws.

But never underestimate three academics’ ability to draw the wrong conclusions. Or prescribe “answers” that conveniently fit with their political or world views, whatever real world experience may indicate.

There is now a clear message emanating from the top commanders at police headquarters: make many stop and frisks, write many summonses, make many arrests for petty offenses, and downgrade serious crimes. In other words, the NYPD seeks to keep the serious crime numbers low while showing lots of officer activity. The NYPD’s 50,000 marijuana arrests, 600,000 summonses, and nearly 700,000 stop and frisks do little or nothing to make the city safer. Indeed, this unnecessary activity alienates communities and hurts the NYPD’s ability to fight serious and violent crimes.

Let’s just be glad the three authors haven’t been asked to screw in a light bulb. The trio (two professors and a law student) aren’t fans of stop and frisk, never mind weed prohibition. They see S&F as racial profiling, pure and simple, and a civil rights violation. And in the absence of probable cause, they won’t get any arguments here.

But while stop and frisk has stirred up plenty of sturn und drang – especially in the city’s minority communities – there’s no evidence that it’s not also effective at preventinging crime. And the strategy isn’t universally hated, either. It has no shortage of support from those on both the left and the right.

In fact, stop and frisk would seem to continue in the successful tradition of the kind of proactive policing – zero tolerance for low level crimes, busting subway turnstile jumpers, squeegee men and streetcorner pot smokers – that was used to great effect by Rudi Giuliani and his Police Chief, William Bratton.

That “broken windows” approach – locking up petty offenders before they graduate to more serious crimes – helped turn the city around and began the significant (and, ahem, real) reductions in crime rates when it had become almost unlivable after decades of textbook urban management.

While determining NYC’s actual violent crime rate should be a priority, throwing out politically incorrect but effective crimefighting strategies with the statistically falsified bathwater—as the authors advocate—would seem to be more than a little counterproductive.

Here’s a better idea: restore New York City’s residents’ right to keep and bear arms and see what happens. It’s worth a try.

27 Responses to NYC, “Safest Big City,” Systematically Falsifying Crime Statistics

  1. avatarGS650G says:

    If you are the mayor and travel with armed guards I can see NYC being pretty safe. The rest of the peons, maybe not.

  2. avatarRKflorida says:

    Please don’t tell me that nanny mike and prince kelly are lying? I don’t know if I could deal with the shock of that.

  3. avatarjwm says:

    Are we surprised that pols, especially gun grabbers, will fudge the numbers and out right lie? To steal a line from my favorite klingon”they have no honor”. As for “stop and frisk” i think pc and oversight is needed for this type of operation. I have the same mixed feelings about the sobriety checkpoints here in ca. I feel they actually help but the opportunity for abuse is there.

    • avatarDirk Diggler says:

      actually, I would make the argument that what Mayor Mike and chief cop Ray Ray are doing is a CRIME. See, NYC gets federal $$$ to stop crime and has to apply for grants. Part of the grant writing is the inclusion of statistics of your particular city and what the $$$ will be used for – I am sure the boys in blue applied for federal cash to buy new weapons, training, etc. based upon arguing their policing theory worked. Falsified statistics are bad. Knowingly falsifying statistics and then using this knowingly falsified data to apply for federal grants and not correcting those falsified reports is a federal crime. Just saying. . . . .

  4. avatarIdahoPete says:

    “Here’s a better idea: restore New York City’s residents’ right to keep and bear arms and see what happens. It’s worth a try.”

    What are you, some kind of radical gun nut right-wing bitter clinger? Give the serfs of NYC the opportunity to protect themselves from criminals? Do you have any idea how many criminals there are in the NYC government? If you give the people of NYC the chance to protect themselves, you are starting down the slippery slope of PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY!! Can’t be having that – next thing you know, the serfs of NYC will expect to be able to make their own decisions on soft drinks, fatty foods and tobacco. ANARCHY IN THE STREETS!! TEOTWAWKI arrives!

    • avatarMilsurp Collector says:

      Man talk about pissing down someone’s back and telling them it’s raining. The sad truth is that not many citizens of NYC will hear about this. The ones that do will either not care or silently agree with folks like us as they’re overwhelmed by the crowds of ever-obedient and oblivious sheep that surround them.

  5. avatarRichard says:

    You had me right up until stop and frisk. Here you are rightly griping about NYC’s mayor stance on gun control and crime statistics and in the same breath endorse a measure that violates people’s right against unreasonable searches. It really pains me to see people that can be so selective in determining which rights are important and that you have basically become the mayor’s twin in your argument here.

    You endorse that the stop and frisk method is effective in stopping crime and would seem to suggest that it isn’t a constitutional problem. All the while I assume you maintain everyone has fourth amendment rights.

    Mayor Bloomberg endorses additional gun control and states that is effective at stopping crime. He says that he supports the second amendment but doesn’t see his prescriptions as infringing on the people’s rights.

    What is the difference?

  6. avatarGreg Camp says:

    I’m a country boy. Yes, I’ve had an education, so I do enjoy visiting the artistic and cultural pleasures that a big city has to offer, but I can’t think of much that would induce me to live in that rabbit warren. When the neighbors can even see the junk cars and rifle range in the yard, much less talk about banning them, they’re too close.

  7. avatarAharon says:

    from wiki:
    “The NYPD’s current authorized uniformed strength is 36,000.[6] There are also approximately 4,500 Auxiliary Police Officers, 5,000 School Safety Agents, 2,300 Traffic Enforcement Agents, and 370 Traffic Enforcement Supervisors currently employed by the department.”

    The grand total above is more like 48,000 uniformed police in NYC. There are probably other ‘police-type’ agencies or organizations that should be included and would raise the size of the NYC army. What happens to public safety when the bonds and city bills become do and revenues drop resulting in cutbacks to the force size? What happens when a criminal decides now to attack the unarmed law abiding citizen right in front of him?

  8. avatarNathan says:

    This is news? The NPR radio program This American Life did a story on this 2 years ago and about the cop who got abused by the NYPD for blowing the whistle. http://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/414/right-to-remain-silent

    • This is news because unlike Schoolcraft’s situation, the data the authors present is the result of interviewing over 2,000 retired NYPD cops. So rather than one person’s experience – however convincing it may have been – this shows how pervasive the problem is much more convincingly.

      • avatarNathan says:

        IDK, Schoolcraft’s recordings seemed pretty convincing evidence (IMO) that this was at least a precint-wide issue, and really was a systemic issue/crime in the NYPD.

  9. avatarSilver says:

    And Mussolini kept the trains running on time. Your point, Bloomy?

    • avatarjwm says:

      did he keep them running on time or did the station agents fudge the numbers to support his 1 claim to fame?

  10. avatarRalph says:

    New York City is much safer now than it was when I lived there.

    Interpret my statement any way you want.

    On the other hand, it’s not safe enough for Bloomie to go anywhere without his well-armed Begleitkommando. So how safe can it really be?

    • avatarLevi B says:

      Now now, gun control is only for the unwashed masses. Clearly if you can afford a bodyguard you are more worth protecting.

    • avataralita says:

      New York is much, much safer now than even in the 90s. Like you said, anyone can interpret thst however they want.
      I live here, and the difference is huge. We’re not literally having to run for our lives every now and again, you pretty much can go anywhere at any time.
      Talk about statistics all you want, that’s all that matters to me.

  11. avatarBeninMA says:

    A city that can’t trust its citizens to just walk around without getting randomly frisked isn’t going to trust its citizens to carry.

    The falsification of statistics has been a well-known problem for some time. You’d think the Department would want to fix this immediately, since it compromises the Department’s ability to accomplish what should be its core purpose, investigating serious crime.

  12. avatarJarhead says:

    Why is their only one comment on this Huffington Post story. Did they bury it? Usually these kind of stories get thousands of comments. Seems fishy to me.

  13. avatarThe Stig says:

    The little noticed HuffPo story could be because they are a third rate outlet, and the second rate outlet, the NYTimes reported on this in June. Me thinks Silverman wanted more attention, so he wrote his own article and submitted it to HuffPo.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/29/nyregion/new-york-police-department-manipulates-crime-reports-study-finds.html

    In either case, crime downgrading with the CompStat system is well known and documented, so while it’s nice that Dr. Silverman added to the evidence of crime downgrading, there is nothing new to see here really.

    I worked on an investigation, 7 years ago, using evidence gathered by the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s office that looked into the use of CompStat and systemic crime downgrading throughout southern Florida. The results are the same everywhere. The system’s use leads to officers/deputies being informally persuaded by their superiors to downgrade crimes to improve the numbers. The deposition of various individuals who brought the system to southern FL from NYC were taken as well, and I remember that there was an awareness that crime downgrading was also happening in NYC. It seemed to be common knowledge with everyone. The trouble is that no one seemed to be able to hold the top people responsible because it was one of the unwritten rules.

  14. avatarJoe Sixpack says:

    When I lived in NYC during the mid-00′s, there was plenty of talk back then how the true stats were being manipulated. Back then it was mostly talk of how the cops would pressure crime victims not to press charges. Say your car was broken into, they’d attempt to convince you since there was nothing they could do about, don’t bother reporting it. And there you have one less crime that’s reported.

    • avataralita says:

      Its always been that way, everywhere, since the beginning of time. Cops are too lazy to do the paperwork.

  15. avatarPeter says:

    Milwaukee just got busted for doing the same thing.

  16. In New York State, the police have no duty to provide police protection to any particular individual. The Courts in New York have held that “generally, a municipality may not be held liable for the failure to provide police protection because the duty to provide such protection is owed to the public at large, rather than to any particular individual” (Conde v. City of New York, 24 AD3d 595, 596 [2005]; see Cuffy v. City of New York, 69 NY2d 255, 260 [1987]).

    As the Chair of the Public Safety Committee of Manhattan Community Board 12. I will be holding a Public Hearing in September 2012 on NYS Senate Bill S1427 & S1863 with an emphasis on self-defense education & firearm training for women.

    Bill S1427 PURPOSE: This proposed constitutional amendment would provide within the New York State Constitution for a right of the people to keep and bear arms for traditionally recognized purposes

    Bill S1863 PURPOSE: This legislation would remove a gun licensing officer’s ability to deny or restrict the issuance of licenses to law abiding citizens who have successfully undergone the state’s strict application process and appropriate New York State and Federal Bureau of Investigations fingerprint background check required under law. In addition, this bill will conform New York State law to current ATF requirements regarding background checks for firearms transfers.

    September 12, 2012 at 6:30 PM at Isabella, 515 Audubon Avenue New York, NY 10040. If you live in New York State feel free to take a look at the information that I will be presenting as well as sign my on-line petition included at the link below. I hope that you will come out and support me as I support you. Fraternally.

    http://cavalierknight.com/documents.html

    • avatarStool-tube says:

      yo. nyc is awash in red tape. And it wont change no-time-soon.
      Democratic stronghold forever. especially because of large Union power.

      Will not support GOP here because of opposition to Unions.

      So theres the rub. GOPb will not reign in NYC

  17. Second quarter numbers showed that the controversial police tactic of stop-and-frisk was down 34 percent compared to the first three months of the year.

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