Is The NYPD Playing With Crime Stats?

Kerry Picket Political Reporter
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New York Mayor Bill de Blasio counts on the NYPD’s CompStat crime statistics to bail him out of political trouble when another shooting or murder happens in the city, but some think these numbers are not a reliable indicator of reality.

“Well the NYPD statistics say — and Commissioner Bratton has made it quite clear that the overall crime rate of the major index crimes is going down in New York City even compared to last year, which was a record year in crime reduction,” de Blasio told The Daily Caller at a presser in Washington D.C., when TheDC asked about the spike in shootings in the city.

Harlem’s 28th NYPD precinct saw a sudden spike in shootings last week, but NYPD police commissioner Bill Bratton brushed off the rise in shootings around the city as an “aberration.”

“It’s career criminals killing and shooting other career criminals,” the commissioner told the New York Post, acknowledging that “on occasion totally innocent civilians get caught up.”

However, the major crime index is based on local crime statistics sent to the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting program by local police agencies like the NYPD. The crime statistics data system used by New York City to initially gather crime stats is known as CompStat.

NYPD officers’ crime reports are entered into the system and the numbers and types of crimes are organized into a database. One former NYPD squad commander laughed when TheDC brought up CompStat, noting how easy it is to write up  robbery as grand larceny instead.

Another former NYPD source agreed, telling the TheDC, “Robbery is a higher crime then grand larceny. Think about it. Robbery is the forcible taking of property. That means I have to punch you in your face, point a gun at you, hit you with something, or if I’m going to threaten force with another person that ups the degree of a robbery to a felony.”

Val Van Brocklin writes at Police One that police report writing and cooking the crime stat books regularly happens through systems like CompStat.

Why do cops remain quiet about the issue? Van Brocklin cites two examples of NYPD cops who were retaliated against by the department when they reported to Internal Affairs that books were cooked on crime stats.

Sgt. Robert Borelli claims he was punished with a transfer to the graveyard shift after blowing the whistle on falsified crime stats, the New York Daily News reported.

NYPD Officer Adrian Schoolcraft says he was punished for reporting cooked crime statistics. Schoolcraft told the Daily News that he was forcibly committed to a mental hospital by the NYPD after he filed his complaint.

Patrolman’s Benevolent Association Recording Secretary Robert Zink, wrote about falsifying NYPD police reports in 2004 in order to give the appearance that crime is going down.

Zink says this can be done by not filing reports or by calling renaming a felony a misdemeanor, instead. Stolen property is undervalued so it will not reach the level of a felony. Additionally, Zink says, instead of reporting multiple crimes as individual events, they can be reported as one single event to keep the numbers low.

NYU Associate Professor of Public Policy Dennis Smith argues that it is difficult to “cook the books” when it comes to the crime statistics in New York City. He told The Daily Caller Monday, “When I studied it several years ago, I found that no other police department in America made the investment that the NYPD does in maintaining data integrity.”

Smith said, “The litany of possible ways workers at various levels can play around with numbers is not wrong but in response to that, and because NYPD more than most police departments anywhere makes their decisions based on the number that you’re seeing.”

Smith said that the NYPD has a strong, organization-wide incentive to “not fool themselves” noting that audits are taken of the police reports and when he studied the reports a few years ago, “There were very few instances where they had to change the report.”

He added, “When the department corrected anything, they were three times as likely to upgrade as downgrade, which says that there may be a bias at the working level to try and see what they can get away with. Basically, it’s a very small fraction of reported crime that were found to be needing such attention.”

However, Van Brocklin points to a 2010 survey conducted by two researchers at Molloy and John Jay College showing that more than 309 retired NYPD officers admitted to falsifying crime statistics. The majority of respondents were precinct commanders after CompStat was implemented into the department.

According to Van Brocklin, “They reported heavy pressure from higher-ups to reduce felonies to misdemeanors or to not report crimes at all to make the numbers look prettier.”

As one of the co-creators of CompStat, Bratton first implemented the system in New York during his first run as commissioner in the mid-90’s under Rudy Giuliani and later brought the system to Los Angeles, when he headed up the LAPD in 2002. De Blasio brought Bratton back for another term as commissioner in 2013.