The New York Times

March 24, 2004

Union Leaders Allege Fudging of
Statistics on City Crime


TMhe presidents of the main police union and the sergeants union said yesterday that political pressure to keep the crime rate down was leading some precinct commanders to fudge their numbers. They contend that there were more rapes, robberies and other felonies in the city than have been made public.

They offered little evidence to support their claim, which was made as the city and the union have been battling over wages and the failure to reach a new contract for the force.

The assertion drew a stinging rebuke from Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, who, at his own news conference later in the day, suggested that in making such charges, the police union leadership was implicitly insulting its own members.

"You can't have it both ways," he said, beginning his attack before a reporter could quite finish his question. "You can't have a billboard in Times Square claiming you're doing such a great job and therefore need a raise, and then the same guy goes out on the steps of wherever he gave his press conference and claim that the success of the N.Y.P.D. is inflated."

The mayor continued, "I'm a bigger advocate, a fan, of the members of the P.B.A. than apparently the union leadership is."

But the union leader he was referring to, Patrick J. Lynch, the president of the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association, was adamant that the police force had done "an outstanding job." He said the problem was that the force, now numbering nearly 37,000, had shrunk by about 4,000 officers since 2000.

Mr. Lynch defended the record declines in reported crime over the last decade, but could not say when he believed the department's statistics had first become suspect. He and the head of the sergeants union, Ed Mullins, stopped short of accusing senior police officials of condoning fraud.

"We've reached a point where some local N.Y.P.D. commanders are forced to falsify stats in order to maintain the appearance of a continued reduction in crime," Mr. Lynch said.

Mr. Lynch said union members from across the department had complained that superiors downgraded crimes from felonies to misdemeanors or refused to count them, but he offered no evidence that such practices were widespread, and the Police Department strongly denied the claim.

About a half-dozen precinct commanders have been accused of cooking their books since 1994, when the department introduced new accountability measures.

Paul J. Browne, the department's chief spokesman, said each precinct's crime reports were audited twice a year, and the rate of error had fallen to 1.8 percent in 2003 from 4.4 percent in 2000.

The union news conference followed a report in Newsday suggesting that a commander of the 50th Precinct in the Bronx had underreported crime, based largely on the fact that the count of some felony crimes had ballooned since the previous commander left.

Mr. Browne pointed out that under the previous commander, grand larceny, one of the easiest crimes to misreport, had increased while murder and auto theft, two of the most difficult to fudge, had gone down.

The dispute over crime statistics comes amid increasing tensions between the P.B.A. and the Bloomberg administration.

The tensions were crystallized by the union's demand in February that Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly resign for saying that that there appeared to be "no justification" for the police shooting of an unarmed teenager the month before.

The mayor has also angered the police unions by suggesting that their raises will be less than those granted to city teachers.