More than a hundred retired New York Police Department captains and higher-ranking officers said in a survey that the intense pressure to produce annual crime reductions led some supervisors and precinct commanders to manipulate crime statistics, according to two criminologists studying the department.
The retired members of the force reported that they were aware over the years of instances of “ethically inappropriate” changes to complaints of crimes in the seven categories measured by the department’s signature CompStat program, according to a summary of the results of the survey and interviews with the researchers who conducted it.
The totals for those seven so-called major index crimes are provided to the F.B.I., whose reports on crime trends have been used by Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and his predecessor, Rudolph W. Giuliani, to favorably compare New York to other cities and to portray it as a profoundly safer place, an assessment that the summary does not contradict.
In interviews with the criminologists, other retired senior officers cited examples of what the researchers believe was a periodic practice among some precinct commanders and supervisors: checking eBay, other Web sites, catalogs or other sources to find prices for items that had been reported stolen that were lower than the value provided by the crime victim. They would then use the lower values to reduce reported grand larcenies — felony thefts valued at more than $1,000, which are recorded as index crimes under CompStat — to misdemeanors, which are not, the researchers said.
Others also said that precinct commanders or aides they dispatched sometimes went to crime scenes to persuade victims not to file complaints or to urge them to change their accounts in ways that could result in the downgrading of offenses to lesser crimes, the researchers said.
“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 retired New York City police captain.
His colleague, Eli B. Silverman, added, “As one person said, the system provides an incentive for pushing the envelope.”
As I have written before on this blog and elsewhere, if independent reporters and analysts keep digging into the statistics and data during Bloomberg's tenure that shows crime falling to the lowest levels since the 60's, fire fatalities at really low rates, and test scores and graduation rates increasing yearly, they will see massaged statistics, manipulated data and in some cases wholesale fraudulent activity by city personnel running police precincts, firehouses and schools.
This is what happens when people have to show quarterly and/or or yearly improvement all the time or be fired.
UPDATE: The NY Post adds to the manipulated crime data furor:
A city police captain was forced to retire last year after he fudged crime statistics to make his precinct look safer -- adding to widening concern over the accuracy of NYPD stats and the belief that top bosses pressure supervisors into cooking the books.
Capt. James Arniotes, a 23-year veteran, told The Post that he was busted for reclassifying 23 grand-larceny felonies as petit-larceny misdemeanors in early 2008.
The misconduct occurred while Arniotes, 48, was second in command at the Ninth Precinct in the East Village.
Grand larceny is one of seven major crimes, along with murder, rape, assault, robbery, burglary and grand larceny auto, that the NYPD and FBI track and publicize.
Through CompStat -- which was started in 1995 and is credited with helping to take crime levels to an all-time low -- data are broken down by precinct and used as a tool to focus cops on crime trends.
But a growing chorus of complaints -- including those from Post interviews with dozens of officers and a new survey of retired captains -- allege that the pressure of CompStat leads precinct bosses to downgrade major crimes to minor offenses.
The evidence includes:
* A new survey of 491 retired captains that found that respondents who worked in the CompStat era felt greater pressure from management to doctor major crimes.
* The NYPD Staten Island Evidence Collection Team's fingerprinting of burglary scenes but not entering its findings if cops did not issue the victims a police report. The burglaries would then not appear on CompStat.
* Sergeants' different attitude during roll call once CompStat began. Before, they would instruct officers to report all crimes. When CompStat came aboard, that speech disappeared.
* Officers who purposely made it difficult for victims to file complaints. Cops responding to burglaries would ask for serial numbers and receipts for lost items and not file their reports until those had been produced.
* Cops who turned felony assaults into misdemeanor assaults if suspects couldn't be identified.
* A sergeant who recorded an iPod stolen during an assault as lost property. The same cop recategorized burglaries down to the level of criminal trespass.
Arniotes admitted to reclassifying criminal charges and was forced to resign -- with his $70,000 annual pension intact.
While leading a Manhattan grand-larceny suppression team, he buckled under the pressure of presenting the data to management every two weeks, he claimed.
"You're under pressure because you have to stand in front of the lectern and talk about grand-larceny suppression," he said.
His lawyer, Hugo Ortega, said, "These captains are called on the carpet one time a month at CompStat meetings and told to bring the numbers down -- and if they don't, their careers are on the line."
In the new survey of retired commanders, by Dr. John Eterno of Molloy College and Dr. Eli Silverman of the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, more than half of the respondents said they were aware of reports changed with an eye toward CompStat.
Supervisors "with questionable disciplinary records who were proactive in crime-reducing strategy 'downgrading complaint reports' were promoted on a regular basis," one respondent wrote.
While the researchers acknowledged that major crimes were at a historic low, they said they hoped the survey results would serve as a "wake-up call" to the department.
"This is the perception of the people we spoke with," Eterno said. "They felt far more pressure to downgrade index crimes than the previous generation of the NYPD. The department demanded less integrity compared to the previous."
The department demanded less integrity compared to the previous generation.
That sentence is emblematic of the entire Bloomberg tenure.
Just show "progress" in the stats.
Doesn't matter if it's accurate or not.
It's all about perception.