"You have to take a hard look at those numbers"
While crime has increased in New York City under Bill de Blasio's pro-crime policies, statistical games have been played with crime reporting. This isn't really new, but the accusation is now coming from someone who knows.
Former Police Commissioner Ray Kelly suggested on Tuesday that the NYPD is manipulating crime statistics — and challenged Mayor de Blasio’s assertion that New York remains the safest big city in America.
When asked during a radio interview about data put out by his successor, Bill Bratton, showing overall crime at record lows, Kelly laughed.
“I think you’ve got to . . . look at those numbers because I think there are some issues with the numbers that are being put out,” Kelly said on AM 970. “I think there’s some redefinition going on as to what amounts to a shooting, that sort of thing.
“I mean, look, all administrations want to show that crime is down,” he added.
“But you have to take a hard look at those numbers, and I can tell you, people don’t feel safer in this city. People say this to me all the time. And perception is reality in many instances. So the city feels unsafe in many people’s minds and unsafe in many neighborhoods in people’s minds.”
Compstat has always been vulnerable to these games. But it would have been nice if Kelly had elaborated on it. The higher crime areas are the most vulnerable to such tampering because it's easier not to take reports or to lose them or to define incidents down.
This sort of thing happened even before Compstat. Some reports just get lost. Felonies become misdemeanors. (And we wouldn't want to hurt the "promising future" of our youth by holding them back due to a misdemeanor, so goodbye to that too). Incidents are downgraded, grouped or treated as ambiguous whenever possible.
But you can only fake so many numbers. So what happens typically are anomalous figures, sudden spikes in certain types of crimes that are harder to cover up in nicer areas where people are less likely to accept a precinct brush-off, followed by the growing perception that the city is unsafe even while the brass and politicians brandish their statistics.
That's the situation in New York.