An anonymous survey of nearly 2,000 retired officers found that the manipulation of crime reports — downgrading crimes to lesser offenses and discouraging victims from filing complaints to make crime statistics look better — has long been part of the culture of the New York Police Department.
The results showed that pressure on officers to artificially reduce crime rates, while simultaneously increasing summonses and the number of people stopped and often frisked on the street, has intensified in the last decade, the two criminologists who conducted the research said in interviews this week.
“I think our survey clearly debunks the Police Department’s rotten-apple theory,” said Eli B. Silverman, one of the criminologists, referring to arguments that very few officers manipulated crime statistics. “This really demonstrates a rotten barrel.”
Dr. Silverman, professor emeritus at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, and John A. Eterno, a retired New York police captain, provided The New York Times with a nine-page summary of the survey’s preliminary results.
Dr. Eterno and Dr. Silverman have previously argued that the Police Department’s longstanding focus on reducing major felony crimes has given rise to “a numbers game.”
Their survey is likely to rekindle the debate, which flared up earlier this year after The Village Voice detailed the case of Adrian Schoolcraft, an officer in the 81st Precinct in Brooklyn who secretly gathered evidence, including audio recordings, of crime-report manipulation. Shortly after Mr. Schoolcraft presented the evidence to police investigators, his superiors had him involuntarily committed to a psychiatric hospital, saying he was in the midst of a psychiatric emergency.
The survey, conducted earlier this year, was financed by Molloy College. Dr. Eterno and Dr. Silverman e-mailed a questionnaire to 4,069 former officers who had retired since 1941. Roughly 48 percent — 1,962 retired officers of all ranks — responded.
The respondents ranged from chiefs and inspectors to sergeants and detectives. About 44 percent, or 871, had retired since 2002. More than half of those recent retirees said they had “personal knowledge” of crime-report manipulation, according to the summary, and within that group, more than 80 percent said they knew of three or more instances in which officers or their superiors rewrote a crime report to downgrade the offense or intentionally failed to take a complaint alleging a crime.
One officer, who retired in 2005, wrote that he heard a deputy commissioner say in a “pre-CompStat meeting” that a commanding officer “should just consolidate burglaries that occurred in an apartment building and count as one.”
“Also not to count leap-year stats.”
Another respondent, who retired in 2008, wrote, “Assault becomes harassment, robbery becomes grand larceny, grand larceny becomes petit larceny, burglary becomes criminal trespass.”
Dr. Eterno, now director of the graduate criminal justice program at Molloy College, said he was startled by the responses.
“What we’ve been able to document here is how many times they’ve seen these manipulations,” he said. “It’s three or more times. That translates, conservatively, into at least 100,000 manipulations, if you extrapolate out the responses to the 35,000 officers on the force.”
As I shared with you before, I have personal experience with NYPD cops trying to discourage my wife and I from reporting a crime.
She had her wallet picked on 34th and 6th. When we walked into a crowd outside Victoria's Secret, she had her wallet. When we walked out of that crowd and got to the PATH station one block away, her wallet was gone.
The responding cops refused to file a crime report. They said since we had not actually seen anybody steal the wallet out of her purse and she had not felt anybody put their hands into her purse, it would be classified as "lost."
Later that night, someone tried to use a credit card from that "lost" wallet to buy a Happy Meal at a McDonald's in Washington Heights .
Trying to use someone else's credit card is a felony, so now the cops had to file a crime report. But each precinct fought for the report to be filed somewhere else. Should the midtown Manhattan precinct file it, where the wallet was lifted? Or should the Washington Heights precinct file the report, where the credit card was used?
The cops from both precincts made the issue as difficult and as big a pain in the ass as possible - like they were pissed they had to file a report.
I've heard from other people, including some who work for the NYPD, that fraudulent reporting is a daily occurrence in Bloomberg's New York, but two summer's ago, I got an upfront seat to it.
With this new study, we have more proof that Bloomberg's policing "miracle" is as fraudulent as his education miracle.