Internal Report Confirms That NYPD Underreported Crimes

Sunday, March 18th, 2012

I’ve written a couple columns for Reason over the last couple years about allegations that NYPD was underreporting serious crimes in order to juke the CompStat figures. And of course at the same time, NYPD was stopping tens of thousands of people for stop-and-frisks and making petty marijuana arrests. Put the two together, and you get a perverse policy of manufacturing petty crimes and false arrests while downgrading—sometimes not even bothering to investigate—violent crimes with actual victims.

NYPD has denied these allegations. When NYPD Officer Adrian Schoolcraft secretly recorded NYPD management in his precinct talking about quotas and downgrades, they raided his home and forcibly committed him to a psychiatric hospital.

When the Schoolcraft allegations first surfaced, NYPD Chief Commissioner Ray Kelly ordered an investigation. NYPD has since tried to sit on the results of that investigation. Last week, the Village Voice reported on its contents. And they’re damning.

 . . . at the same time that police officials were attacking Schoolcraft’s credibility, refusing to pay him, and serving him with administrative charges, the NYPD was sitting on a document that thoroughly vindicated his claims.

Investigators went beyond Schoolcraft’s specific claims and found many other instances in the 81st Precinct where crime reports were missing, had been misclassified, altered, rejected, or not even entered into the computer system that tracks crime reports.

These weren’t minor incidents. The victims included a Chinese-food delivery man robbed and beaten bloody, a man robbed at gunpoint, a cab driver robbed at gunpoint, a woman assaulted and beaten black and blue, a woman beaten by her spouse, and a woman burgled by men who forced their way into her apartment.

“When viewed in their totality, a disturbing pattern is prevalent and gives credence to the allegation that crimes are being improperly reported in order to avoid index-crime classifications,” investigators concluded. “This trend is indicative of a concerted effort to deliberately underreport crime in the 81st Precinct.”

NYPD spokesman Paul Browne did not respond to repeated requests for comment.

The investigation found that crime complaints were changed to reflect misdemeanor rather than felony crimes, which prevented those incidents from being counted in the all-important crime statistics. In addition, the investigation concluded that “an unwillingness to prepare reports for index crimes exists or existed in the command.”

Moreover, a significant number of serious index crimes were not entered into the computer tracking system known as OmniForm. “This was more than administrative error,” the probe concluded.

There was an “atmosphere in the command where index crimes were scrutinized to the point where it became easier to either not take the report at all or to take a report for a lesser, non-index crime,” investigators concluded.

The Voice talked to criminologists and former NYPD officials who say there’s no reason to think the problem is limited to the 81st Precinct.

John Eterno, a criminologist at Molloy College and a former NYPD captain, says that what was happening in the 81st Precinct is no isolated case. “The pressures on commanders are enormous, to make sure the crime numbers look good,” Eterno says. “This is a culture. This is happening in every precinct, every transit district, and every police housing service area. This culture has got to change.”

As for Mauriello, he’s no rogue commander, says Eterno, who has published a book about crime reporting with John Jay College professor Eli Silverman. “Mauriello is no different from any other commander,” he says. “This is just a microcosm of what is happening in the entire police department.”

Indeed, it is clear from Schoolcraft’s recordings that Mauriello was responding to pressure emanating from the Brooklyn North borough command and police headquarters for lower crime numbers and higher summons and stop-and-frisk numbers.

This ought to be a much, much bigger scandal. Political pressure to produce ever-lower crime stats was providing an incentive to downgrade or refuse to investigate rapes, robberies, and assaults. All the while, NYPD cops were stopping hundreds of thousands of black and brown people for no reason at all, subjecting them to searches, then, in some cases, arresting them with little cause, only to release them hours or days later.

The evidence on whether CompStat and Broken Windows really contributed much to the crime drop is mixed. But we’re seeing increasingly alarming evidence that the two policies have had some pretty awful unintended (but, when you think about it, entirely predictable) consequences.

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18 Responses to “Internal Report Confirms That NYPD Underreported Crimes”

  1. #1 |  Slappy Gunderson | 


    Ray Kelly is the Police Commissioner, not a uniformed chief.

    The police commissioner is appointed by the mayor (Bloomberg) whereas NYPD chiefs are promoted from within the uniformed ranks of the NYPD by the police commissioner (Kelly).

  2. #2 |  John P. | 

    Its not just NYPD. Nashville PD and Memphis PD both got caught by the FBI for under reporting crimes recently. Last year IIRC…

    Cops lie as a matter of form. They do it so often they begin to think its acceptable to lie all the time.

    I’m reading two books right now.

    First one is called “Mistakes Were Made, (But Not By Me)”, written by Carl Tavris and another called “Without A Conscience– The Disturbing World Of The Psychopaths Among Us” by Robert Hare.

    And WOW! all I can say is the descriptions of the acts and the behavior of people profiled in both these books, fit police to a proverbial “T”.

    Our country deserves its police just like it deserves its elected officials.

    We get the .gov we deserve.

  3. #3 |  SJE | 

    I’d like to see Schoolcraft promoted to a very senior position in the NYPD, investigating and dismissing officers who engage in this sort of B.S. Schoolcraft has shown he embodies the culture of ethics we should demand of all of our public officers.

  4. #4 |  Marty | 

    the propaganda and public relations sales pitches will continue to be built on the lies these stats support and it’ll be told until these stats are ‘facts’ that are all but impossible to disprove. “Don’t be haters!”

  5. #5 |  Ricky | 

    The NYPD are simply trying to be pro-active. Why investigate rapes, robberies, and assaults that have already happened, when you can potentially prevent rapes, robberies, and assaults by randomly stopping and frisking people?

    Only people with something to hide would oppose this effective program, that has saved or created an estimated 400 people a year.

  6. #6 |  primus | 

    We the people are the ultimate bosses. If an employee in private industry were to be caught significantly misleading the bosses as to their progress and success, they would be fired on the spot. To act against the interests of the state is treason. When an employee of the state deliberately misleads the bosses, why is that not treason? If I recall, treason is one of only a few offences for which the punishment is death.

  7. #7 |  picachu | 

    primus “We the people are the ultimate bosses.”


  8. #8 |  Robert | 

    And it’s happening all over the country. Do not trust official gov crime figures.

  9. #9 |  Dante | 

    I bet the NYPD would report the crimes if the suspect was Muslim.

    And living in New Jersey…

  10. #10 |  Nancy Lebovitz | 

    I wonder where this leaves Stephen Pinker’s theory about people becoming less violent.

  11. #11 |  Herom | 

    Sadly typical. Why do the work and be honest, when you can not do the work, lie about the stats, and get rewarded for it? Any time you decide to judge people on self-reported statistics, there are going to be people gaming the system. We’ve seen it with Blair’s privatization and “Incentivization” program in NHS, we’ve seen it in the spread of funding-determining diagnostic testing in the US, we’ve seen it in the CDO and mortgage debacle that brought the global economy crashing down, we’ve seen it with the War on Drugs and more recently with the ICE campaign, and now, tragically, we’re finding out the same dynamic is probably at play in how police forces “deal” with major crimes by not investigating them. If you’re going to oversee people with statistics, you need to have a robust and active group of auditors, divorced as much as possible from the people they are meant to keep honest; the joke that Internal Affairs has become proves that.

  12. #12 |  Herom | 

    @#10: I haven’t read his book, but from his interviews it seemed like his theory was built primarily on the decrease in warfare over time. As such, I doubt falsification of NYPD crime statistics would make much of a difference. Of course, if a big part of his thesis was NYPD crime statistics, then it would certainly undermine his argument.

  13. #13 |  markm | 

    These results are “entirely predictable” only if you think the higher ranks in the department are lying, amoral, dishonorable scum.

  14. #14 |  Boyd Durkin | 

    I predict no heads will roll over this. Promotions for everyone!

  15. #15 |  Monday Articles (for your post-St. Patricks Day fun) » Scott Lazarowitz's Blog | 

    […] Radley Balko: Internal Report Confirms That NYPD Underreported Crimes […]

  16. #16 |  Russ 2000 | 

    So when we read about crime rates dropping, should we assume the stats are bullshit? Every side – Repub, Dem, Libertarian, etc – likes to mention lower crime rates when its convenient for their arguments. Its gotten to the point that government stats, good or bad, simply cant be trusted.

  17. #17 |  Government as a principal-agent problem « Blunt Object | 

    […] problem it’s the kind of policing the people get.  Edit: It seems to me that this story about the NYPD ignoring serious crimes and generating spurious drug-possession arrests vi… is about as good an example as it gets of the principal-agent-agent-agent problem in […]

  18. #18 |  Liberals, what am missing here...??? - Page 3 | 

    […] document.write(''); OX.requestAd({"auid":"33502"}); Originally Posted by BC1 Holy smokes! I had no idea. I stand corrected. I found this statistic as well –> In 2009, among the 182 U.S. cities with populations of more than 100,000, New York City ranked 136th in overall crime. While crime rates have stopped decreasing for a decade in the rest of the United States, in New York the murder rate for 2009 is at an all time low of 466, more than a 10% decline from the previous year, and the lowest count during the period that crime statistics have been recorded. Source: NYC Daily News – 2009 homicides in New York City are fewest since 1963 —> 2009 homicides in New York City are fewest since 1963 – NY Daily News True enough, and that's down to the trauma ER saving lives imo. Also, the NYPD have a bit of a history of fudging numbers. Internal Report Confirms That NYPD Underreported Crimes | The Agitator […]