This Crime Didn't Count

An assault in Brooklyn that never made it into the ballyhooed NYPD stats

Other numbers paint a confusing picture. Admissions to city jails are down, but only by about 5 percent since 2002, a far smaller drop than in crime overall. The number of shooting victims and incidents went up last year, but only very slightly. The number of quality-of-life summonses—a hallmark of the Giuliani years—has shot up 53 percent under Bloomberg. And while emergency 911 calls are down, the number of police radio runs is up.

Interestingly, the number of felony arrests has dropped since 2002. So the increase in arrests is entirely due to a 15 percent leap in arrests for things other than felonies, a category that includes misdemeanors, like assault in the third degree.

In December 2004, almost three months after he was attacked, Eden went to the 88th Precinct to obtain the police report of the crime. He was surprised at what he read: "Victim states unknown perps struck him in the eye with closed fist causing laceration to left eye and then fled in unknown direction."

Nothing about a baseball bat. Nothing about the guy Eden saw running away. And the report classifies the crime as an assault in the third degree.

New York City doesn't count misdemeanors as assaults in city statistics of major crimes. That means that as far as the much heralded crime numbers go, the assault on Eden did not occur.

Theoretically, if there were 10,000 assaults like the one in Fort Greene on September 24, 2004, and the police reported them all as misdemeanors, the crime rate would not have been affected one bit.

Of course, this was just one incident, so it wouldn't have mattered much either way: There were almost 18,000 felony assaults recorded in the city's last fiscal year. But the case illustrates the ambiguous language of New York's laws and the role they play in determining what crimes actually make the stats.

For example, Section 120.00 of the state penal code describes assault in the third degree (a class A misdemeanor) as occurring when a person "with intent to cause physical injury to another person . . . causes such injury." Section 120.05 depicts assault in the second degree, a felony, as when a person "with intent to cause serious physical injury . . . causes such injury." Was Eden's injury serious, or just an injury?

At last count, there were 20,000 fewer crimes a year in New York City compared to 2002. The vast majority of that decline is due to fewer burglaries and auto thefts. But violent crimes like murder, rape, robbery, and assault are also down. The bulk of that decrease (about 60 percent of it) reflects a drop in felonious assault—a charge that, as Eden's case demonstrates, depends on how hard the cops say you got hit.

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