While much of the local media accept the NYPD’s resistance to providing public information, the stalwart editors of the tiny Norwood News weekly in the Bronx are at least trying to do something about it.
Editor in Chief Jordan Moss and Managing Editor Alex Kratz have taken to posting a clock depicting the amount of time the NYPD has stonewalled them on their request for 52nd Precinct crime statistics by each of the 15 sectors in the precinct. As of today, it had been 405 days, or well over a year, since they first made their request. And to date, they’ve gotten zero from the Police Department, except form letters with no information.
Why do it? “It’s not like we haven’t gotten it before, so it seems like they just want to keep it from us because they know we want to highlight areas that aren’t so great,” MOss says. “It’s frustrating They say they will respond, and then we don’t hear from them. I’ve written [Deputy Commissioner for Public Information] Paul Browne and he doesn’t respond.”
The editors tell us that those statistics “would be an invaluable resource for citizens.” They argue that the precinct-wide stats are useless because they don’t tell you specifically where the crimes are happening.
And here’s where the story gets more interesting. In 2008, the Norwood News asked the precinct commander, James Alles, for the stats by sector, and he simply printed them out and turned them over.
But the next time they asked, Alles declined, telling them he had gotten in trouble with Police headquarters for providing those statistics. He referred them to Browne’s office, which said they had to do a freedom of information request.
Here’s what Moss and Kratz wrote about what happened next: “The NYPD wrote us saying they probably had the records but that it would take them three months to dig up the same information that it took the 52nd Precinct two minutes to produce.”
“By mid-March, three months after filing the request, we wrote an editorial saying the delay was unacceptable. The day the article was published, the NYPD called us and then faxed over the stats. It probably took them two minutes.”
“Now, here we are again, waiting on the NYPD.”
“Almost a year ago, on June 3, we sent a FOIL to the NYPD requesting 52nd Precinct sector stats. In a letter dated June 16, the NYPD Legal Bureau said we could expect a determination by Sept. 10. In October, after receiving no response, we decided to file another FOIL asking for sector stats for every Bronx precinct. Again, they responded, saying we should expect a determination in four months, by Feb. 15, 2011.”
“Since then, we have periodically called and left messages with the department’s legal bureau. We have not received a call back.”
Councilman Fernando Cabrera is considering drafting legislation to require the NYPD to turn over stats by sector to the public and the media.