Chief-Leader
Updated: 4:54 pm, Mon Jul 20, 2015

 

Shakeup At Bronx Precinct in Alleged Crime-Stat Scam

By MARK TOOR

The NYPD filed administrative charges against 19 officers at the 40th Precinct in the Bronx and removed its commanding officer after identifying 55 crime complaints that were improperly classified during a four-month period last year, the department announced July 17.

“One Lieutenant, eight Sergeants, nine Police Officers and one Detective are subject to departmental charges and specifications in connection with this matter,” the department said in a press release. ‘Based on the findings of the [Quality Assurance Division] audit, the commanding officer of the 40th Precinct has been administratively transferred.”

The commander was Deputy Inspector Lorenzo Johnson.

Fudging the Numbers?

The announcement was the first time the NYPD had publicly discussed problems with crime classifications since Raymond W. Kelly left as Police Commissioner at the end of 2013.

Critics suspicious of the continuing steep drops in reported index crimes during the Kelly years said they believed that precinct commanders, under pressure from Police Headquarters, encouraged their subordinates to classify felonies as misdemeanors so they didn’t show up in NYPD Compstat reports.

There was a fair amount of anecdotal evidence of tampering with statistics. Six rapes in the 33rd Precinct were classified as criminal 

trespassing, allowing a serial rapist to operate under the Detective Squad’s radar.

A precinct commander was taped by whistleblower Adrian Schoolcraft turning away a man trying to report a car theft, asking him, “Do you think karma stole your car?”

Downgrading Offenses

There were multiple reports of desk officers looking up stolen items on E-Bay to find the lowest possible value that could be assigned to them and lowering crime categories without discussing the change with the officer who filed the report.

An auditing panel appointed by Mr. Kelly reported in 2013 that “no reported crime rate is going to fixed with absolute certainty.”

Pressure to keep crime numbers down was widely thought to have eased since William J. Bratton took over from Mr. Kelly and Bill de Blasio succeeded Michael Bloomberg, whose background as head of a financial-data-information empire made him unusually focused on statistics.

In the 40th Precinct, most of the misclassified reports were in the five general-offense categories of petit larceny, lost property, misdemeanor assault, criminal mischief and criminal trespass, the NYPD said.

After the complaint reports were properly classified, the overall crime statistics for the 40th Precinct for 2014 were recalculated to show a decrease of 11.4 percent for 2014 rather than the previously reported 14-percent drop.

Bratton: Unacceptable

“The purposeful misrepresentation of crime data is rare but nevertheless unacceptable,” Mr. Bratton said in the press release. “...These statistics provide the very basis upon which our crime-fighting strategies are formulated and our resources allocated. I will not tolerate any misconduct that might undermine public confidence...”

Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association President Patrick Lynch questioned the fairness of the charges, which he said the union would vigorously contest.

“We agree that crime stats have to be accurate in order to know where and when to assign police resources,” he said in a statement. “However, because of the serious shortage of police officers over the last decade and a half, management has consistently hammered police officers to reduce felonies to misdemeanors. It’s an artificial way of keeping felonies down with fewer officers on the street, a problem that we still experience today. 

“This union has been vocal about the problem since 2004. Police officers follow the dictates of their bosses or they suffer the consequences.”