Accounts of police downgrading crime reports surfaced again on Sunday in a New York Times article, which compared descriptions of crimes in police reports versus the charges eventually brought by prosecutors.
The article’s author Joseph Goldstein examined more than 100 police reports, and found a number of instances where after police charged misdemeanors, prosecutors upgraded them to felonies.
Police manipulation of the crime statistics has been a significant issue over the past three years, after Police Officer Adrian Schoolcraft and several other officers went public with examples of downgrading by commanders under pressure to report ever lower crime numbers.
The Schoolcraft case was the subject of a six-part Village Voice series, which reported most recently that an internal police investigation confirmed his allegations, even as the NYPD was publicly criticizing him.
In 2011, prosecutors upgraded the charges to felonies for 102 cases the police initially classified as misdemeanors.
Among the cases found by the Times were some of the same tactics that have been uncovered in reports by the Voice, the Times, and other media outlets in recent years.
Two teenage woman struck by bullet ricochets in the Bronx. The police did not count them as crime victims.
A South Brooklyn incident where a woman reported that her estranged husband had sexually assaulted her, but the police classified the incident as misdemeanor forcible touching. Prosecutors upgraded the case to attempted rape.
An August 14 incident in lower Manhattan in which police classified the thefts of an iPhone and iPad as two separate misdemeanor petit larceny complaints, Prosecutors called the thefts felony burglary. This is a classic downgrading tactic, because the difference between a felony and a misdemeanor larceny is based on the amount of the item.
A woman nearly choked to death in a case police classified as a misdemeanor.
A man who displayed a razor and threatened to slash a store employees in Queens last June. That case was classified as menacing, weapons possession and shoplifting, not felony robbery. Here, breaking the crime into smaller components keeps it out of the felony category.
It has been 21 months since the police commissioner formed a three-member panel of former federal prosecutors to review the accuracy of the crime numbers. He had said it would be done in three to six months. It is now, charitably, 15 months late. One wonders if Kelly’s plan is to run out the clock on the Bloomberg administration before releasing anything.
An advocacy group, Communities United for Police Reform, said this: “The New York Times review of recent NYPD crime reports illustrates how desperately Bloomberg’s police department requires reform and independent oversight. Pressure on the department to report low crime numbers that don’t match reality hurts New Yorkers and prioritizes statistics over safety.”