The NYPD has become so obsessed with trying to show an ever-lower crime rate that it erased February 29, 2008.
That day, however, was particularly bloody in the Ninth Precinct. Outside the East Village Key Food supermarket, a makeshift memorial still stands, weeks after a Leap Day slaying of one of the store’s employees.
On February 29, inside the market at Avenue A and 4th Street, James Gonzalez, a 42-year-old ex-con known to store workers as “Crazy Jimmy,” allegedly repeatedly stabbed his ex-girlfriend, Tina Negron, to death with a butcher’s knife. Both worked at the market. Negron would have turned 25 years old on March 16.
It was the Ninth Precinct’s first homicide of the year. But according to NYPD stats, it didn’t happen. Check the NYPD website, and you discover that there have been no murders in the precinct this year.
You have to go to the fine print—an asterisk at the bottom of the stats—to get what’s kind of an explanation: “Crime figures for February 29, 2008 . . . were excluded to ensure accurate comparisons.”
Negron wasn’t the only victim who was victimized again by the stats. A total of 248 felonies, including two murders, occurred citywide on February 29. But they were excluded from the CompStat analysis—the NYPD’s method of tracking seven “major” crime categories (murder, rape, robbery, felonious assault, burglary, car theft, and grand larceny).
Beginning in Rudy Giuliani’s administration and continuing under Mike Bloomberg, the running totals and comparisons in these seven categories have had enormous political import. And removing a day from the year can’t hurt the stats, right?
The FBI doesn’t look at it that way. Its Uniform Crime Reporting program, which collects data from 17,000 police departments across the country, includes crimes that occurred on Leap Day as part of its comparison with crime numbers from previous years, officials say.
So, too, does the Los Angeles Police Department, which is run by the man credited with first implementing CompStat in New York City.
Though Giuliani has tried to make everyone believe otherwise, CompStat was the brainchild of Bill Bratton, the former New York City police commissioner, and his guys, most notably his deputy police commissioner, Jack Maple. Unlike the NYPD, the LAPD—where Bratton is now the top cop—doesn’t ignore Leap Day crime stats.
It’s a no-brainer. One member of the LAPD CompStat unit, surprised that such a question about Leap Day stats would even come up, told the Voice: “That’s a day. There was crime that day. So it was included.”
The NYPD press office’s top CompStat guru didn’t return several phone calls from the Voice. But according to published reports in 2004, the NYPD stopped counting Leap Day statistics in 2000. Attributing the reasons to an unnamed police spokesman, a Daily News story explained that Leap Day is withheld from CompStat because “adding the extra day . . . could show an unreliable increase in crime in comparison with the prior weeks and months and cause changes in deployment when it is not really necessary.”
This count-no-evil approach is the antithesis of how the police say CompStat is supposed to work. Commanding officers have regular CompStat meetings in which they’re made to specifically account for crime and crime-fighting in their precincts during the previous week. The hard copies of CompStat figures produced at police headquarters and the online version of the statistics both show that the Ninth Precinct has had no murders this year. So one question is whether Deputy Inspector Dennis DeQuatro, the CO of the Ninth Precinct, has been held accountable for solving Negron’s murder and the other crimes that happened in his precinct on February 29. If the NYPD had counted the day, DeQuatro was sure to have been grilled about why prime suspect “Crazy Jimmy” Gonzalez was still at large. As of press time, he still hadn’t been caught.
But even if the crime didn’t officially count, the neighborhood still hasn’t forgotten. As of late last week, a “Wanted” poster for Gonzalez was still pasted on the front window of Key Food. Outside the store were 14 votive candles, plus plastic buckets of fading bouquets. Taped to a phone booth was what looked like a prom-night photo of Negron. Above it was written “Rest In Peace, Tina” and below it: “We All Loved You + Always Will.”
Also inscribed under her picture were “3-16-83,” her birth date, and “2-29-08,” the day she was murdered—whether the police stats recorded it or not.
Although the NYPD did not list crimes that occurred on February 29 or count them in regular reports, it will include them in its end-of-the year cumulative statistics.