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Well, the results are in. Amid lingering questions about the NYPD’s crime statistics, a new poll of 1,000 New Yorkers gives Police Commissioner Ray Kelly a 70 percent approval rating. But just 54 percent of New Yorkers said they trust the city’s crime stats. Among African-Americans, the number declined to 42 percent.
Widespread questions about the stats emerged in several articles this month containing allegations that precinct commanders manipulate their crime numbers because they are under so much pressure to show crime declines.
A survey of retired police supervisors by professors Eli Silverman and John Eterno, a former NYPD captain, reported that the commanders said they felt more pressure to reduce crime under Compstat, a program in which they are called to account for crime in their precincts. More than half said they were aware of change to crime reports, and half of those said they thought those changes were unethical.
How could crime complaints be manipulated? Well…
…you can classify a grand larceny as a petty larceny. You can downgrade an assault to a harassment. You could refuse to take a complaint if the victim declines to come to the stationhouse.
Hardly radicals, Silverman and Eterno were generally laudatory about the job the police department does and for the police commissioner. But that didn’t stop the Daily News from slamming them in an editorial last week.
“Two academics have libeled the NYPD and every police officer who worked his or her butt off in the long, hard fight to make New York safer,” the Daily News thundered.
“It was unbelievable,” Silverman says, reacting to the editorial. “I didn’t expect wide plaudits, but I also didn’t expect this extreme reaction.”
“We’re sorry if they don’t like what the data says,” Silverman adds, “but that’s what the data says. We have no axe to grind.”
Mayor Bloomberg, meanwhile, declared that the study was “paid for by one of the unions.”
Actually, that’s not true. Molloy College paid for it. The Captains union merely gave researchers its mailing list, Silverman says.
Kelly’s spokesman Paul Browne complained that the survey was “flawed.” “There’s no way of knowing whether the respondents had any firsthand knowledge of what they were talking about or just repeating what they’d heard about a few well-publicized incidents,” he told the New York Post.
Eterno called that remark, “ludicrous.”
Browne sure didn’t like the results of the SIlverman/Eterno survey. But he sure did like the survey which showed Kelly had a 70 percent approval rating.
As for the 54 percent of people who don’t trust the crime stats? Browne once again blamed the messenger.
“The confidence level would have been significantly higher if the poll was not taken during a week when people were casting aspersions on Compstat,” Browne told the Daily News.
In other words, it was one poll’s fault that the numbers in another poll didn’t look so good.