Days after a Brooklyn cop and a Queens politician accused the police of cooking its crime statistics, a survey of more than one hundred retired NYPD higher-ups showed that cops—who are under constant pressure to produce happy-looking stats—have routinely fabricated or manipulated their data, since the crime analysis system was put into place in 1995. And the statistics they produce are the very same that Bloomberg quotes when he says the city is safe, and getting safer every year. “Those people in the CompStat era felt enormous pressure to downgrade index crime, which determines the crime rate, and at the same time they felt less pressure to maintain the integrity of the crime statistics,” said John A. Eterno, one of the researchers and a former NYPD captain.
“As one person said, the system provides an incentive for pushing the envelope,” another researcher, Eli B. Silverman told the NY Times. Together with Eterno he's writing a book tentatively titled “Unveiling Compstat: The Naked Truth.” Researchers think that for one, there was a periodic practice, of underreporting the value of goods stolen, so that there would be fewer grand larcenies (thefts of over $1000) on the record. Other times, they believe that precinct commanders and aides went to crime scenes to convince victims not to file complaints, or to encourage them to file less serious complaints.
Paul J. Browne, the chief police spokesman, said the study was flawed because of its anonymity, and because multiple respondents could be remembering the same incidents. He added that there have been two other, better studies analyzing crime stats. One, administered by NYU concluded that, “the city and department officials, and the public can be reasonably assured that the N.Y.P.D. data are accurate, complete and reliable.”
Still, those surveyed were frank in their criticism of the system. “CompStat was a good idea in theory,” wrote one respondent. “However the process rules managerial decisions. We do not manage to serve people but to lower crime statistics any way we can because your career depends on it.”