The NYPD's manipulation and suppression of crime statistics has been thoroughly substantiated, and yesterday an independent committee released a report that reveals serious flaws with the NYPD's system of cataloguing crime. The report [PDF], written by three former federal prosecutors, provides insight into how numbers and complaints are twisted to benefit cops and their superiors, which in turn affects the crime numbers touted by public officials at press conferences. "A close review of the NYPD's statistics and analysis demonstrate that the misclassifications of reports may have an appreciable effect on certain reported crime rates," the report states.
Crimes most susceptible to downgrading usually involve stolen property. The report states that larcenies are downgraded to "lost property," and robberies are downgraded to larcenies as the police "failed to accurately reflect the element necessary to escalate the crime from a larceny to a robbery, such as the forcible nature of the taking or the multiple perpetrators."
In one instance noted in the report, "there was a complaint report in which a desk officer scratched out the item values in order to bring the total to below the $1,000 threshold for grand larceny."
The report was completed pro bono by three former federal prosecutors, one of whom died while the report was being drafted. The remaining two attorneys, David Kelley and Sharon McCarthy, stood with NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly yesterday and praised the department's auditing processes, even if they offered little insight into the report's findings.
Kelley, the attorney, called the NYPD's auditing procedures "the most robust in the country." When asked what problems the review was trying to identify and solve with the NYPD, Kelley responded, "It's not trying to solve a problem…It's providing a window into the NYPD's processes" for the public to view.
In addition to manipulating or suppressing statistics, the report notes that one officer interviewed said he may actually inflate crime statistics at the end of the year or before a certain milestone, lest his superiors expect more of him and make him a "victim of his own success."
The report also found flaws with how the NYPD's Quality Assurance Division deals with bad numbers: "A precinct with high error rates in reported larcenies does not result in QAD placing a greater focus on larceny reporting in subsequent audits. This lack of accountability is one potential area for improvement in the audit process."
At least 800 misclassifications were found during audits of the department's crime statistics during the scope of the report (roughly from 2009 to 2011), but only 20 cases against 53 officers were pursued from 2002 to 2011. Approximately 30 were disciplined. The report notes that press coverage of the problems (notably the case of Adrian Schoolcraft in the 81st Precinct) helped deter officers from engaging in willful manipulation.
Commissioner Kelly said the department adopted "all" of the report's recommendations, which ranged from drafting actual charters for the QAD to keeping precinct-level records of when citizens request copies of their complaints (manipulation is sometimes reported by the citizen, who finds that their crime has been downgraded or mischaracterized).
The report's release comes as Kelly has been stridently opposing a City Council bill that would install an inspector general to review NYPD policy and make recommendations, much as the committee that drafted this report did.
McCarthy, the other attorney who worked on the report, told reporters yesterday of the "receptiveness of the NYPD to our suggestions…[The NYPD] can move, they can be nimble." Great news for the NYPD's next Inspector General!
You can read the list of the committee's recommendations on page 39 of the report [PDF].