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NYPD's Reporting Problem

Henry Hargreaves

Reacting to the Voice's article last week on a secret NYPD investigation that vindicated a whistle-blower who reported downgrading of crime, New Yorkers reached out to us to report their own difficult experiences with trying to file crime complaints.

In e-mails, phone calls, and comments to The Village Voice and other media outlets—including The New York Times and WNYC—several dozen New Yorkers shared appalling experiences about the simple act of reporting a crime.

The Voice reported last week that a secret internal report withheld by the NYPD for nearly two years confirmed most of the allegations about downgrading of crime reports made by Police Officer Adrian Schoolcraft in October 2009. For his trouble, Schoolcraft claims the NYPD retaliated against him by forcibly dragging him to a psychiatric ward at Jamaica Hospital where he was held for six days.

City Councilman Peter Vallone tells the Voice the findings in the NYPD report on Schoolcraft's allegations mirror what he has been hearing for some time from New Yorkers. "This report might be a game changer," he says. "This is even more evidence that the crime statistics are not accurate. It happens far too often for it to be just mistakes."

Vallone plans to hold a hearing once Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly's three-member panel is finished with its review of the crime statistics. That review is now more than six months late. Vallone has written two letters to Kelly questioning the delay without an answer from the commissioner.

"Because of the circumstances, the treatment of Schoolcraft should be looked at by the commission that Kelly established," Vallone adds.

"You would think people at City Hall would be worried about retaliation against people who report misclassification of crime reports," says Christopher Dunn of the New York Civil Liberties Union. "City Hall should be doing something about this."

A retired NYPD detective called for a federal monitor to oversee the department.

A police officer wrote the Voice to tell us: "The NYPD has become in many ways a pyramid scam. Commanding officers will downgrade every crime they can in order to get politically promoted."

Among the anecdotes told to the Voice was one by a man who reported an assault to police and was accused of lying. "The detective did one of those callbacks, was very nasty, and accused me of lying," he said. "He dropped the case. One of the officers told me, 'It's not really an assault unless you're bruised, bloody, and broken."

Another man said he was robbed by a man he met at a nightclub. Precinct police were unresponsive, even after the victim gave the name and identifying details to investigators. "I was ignored by police, my apartment was never printed, and I had to contact my city councilman to get them to call me back," he says. "I am trying to hold the NYPD accountable for . . . I don't know . . . doing their jobs."

A resident of the ritzy Donald Trump development on Riverside Drive in Manhattan told the Voice about a burglary on December 7, 2011. She says burglars cleaned her out of about $60,000 worth of possessions. She called 911, and the person who took the call told her to go to the precinct. She did and brought two police officers back to her apartment.

The victim was told a detective would follow up. That took four days. That detective doubted her claims. "Among the absurd reasons he gave me were there had never been a robbery in Trump Towers, so he didn't believe I had been robbed," she says.

She says the detective refused to interview any witnesses. "He said witnesses had no credibility because I could tell them anything I wanted," she says. "He concluded no robbery had occurred because 'I couldn't prove everything I claimed was missing was in my apartment on the day I'd been robbed.' How could anyone?"

She says she complained about the detective to the precinct commander, but the commander never called her back. The detective then called her and yelled at her for getting him in trouble with his boss. She filed a complaint with Internal Affairs. Two months of pestering them later, she was told the complaint had been dismissed. "What makes this truly remarkable is that no one from IAB ever spoke to me once to get any facts or details as to what I was complaining about," she says.

As a result of the police refusing to take her complaint, she says, her insurance company is denying her claim. "We've become double victims," she says.

A Brooklyn man told the Voice about a terrifying 2007 incident in which three teens robbed and beat him, fracturing his skull. He spent a week in the hospital as a result. He says when he tried to report the incident, though, he got so much resistance from the police that he finally had to ask for help from a police-officer friend.

A Manhattan woman went to her precinct to report an earlier road-rage incident in which another driver cut her off and threw metal tools at her car. "The desk captain asked me why I was bothering to report something that already happened earlier, and when I insisted he take a report, he found a lackey to do it," she wrote.

When she called the precinct a few days later to follow up, she learned that the report had been lost. "I discovered that not only my precinct 'may have sent the report to another precinct,' but that no one in that precinct could find the report. So I was out a cracked car window, battered car body, and any proof this nut job threatened my life," she wrote.

A Williamsburg, Brooklyn, man said when he was mugged a few years ago, police from one precinct told him to go to another precinct. When he got to the second precinct, officers told him that, too, was the wrong precinct.

Police Spokesman Paul Browne did not respond to Voice inquiries, but he told other reporters that the report proves that the NYPD took Schoolcraft's allegations seriously. Mayor Bloomberg, meanwhile, has been silent on the subject, and his spokesman did not return phone calls.

grayman@villagevoice.com


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