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Monday, May 23, 2011

Bronx Crime Watch (Editorial): Clock Ticking on NYPD Freedom of Information Request for Neighborhood Crime Stats

Editor's Note: This editorial appeared in last week's issue of the Norwood News. We will continue to display this counter (above) until the NYPD releases sector statistics for every Bronx police precinct.

Editorial: NYPD Hides Neighborhood Crime Stats

The NYPD has been proud to trumpet plummeting crime stats over the last 15 years or so. Citywide and precinct-wide crime stats are easy to come by. But when it comes to information about crime in your neighborhood or on your block, well, not so much.

A little history:

In early 2008, the Norwood News asked James Alles, then commander of the 52nd Precinct, for the previous year’s crime stats broken down broken down by the precinct’s 15 sectors.

No problem, Alles said, directing a lieutenant to print out the stats. It took all of two minutes.

The statistics allowed us to publish a map showing crime trends in specific neighborhoods, something residents have long sought. We received loads of positive feedback from readers.

“Although I feel safe in my neighborhood, evidently our autos are targets,” one reader said. “Is it possible to receive these reports on a sector basis each month? The overall report for the entire precinct does not really inform the public about their own neighborhood.”

Months later, we asked Alles about doing a follow-up piece. He smiled sheepishly and shook his head. He told us the published sector stats had landed him in hot water with NYPD brass and that we would have to go through the Deputy Commissioner for Public Information (DCPI) at police headquarters if we wanted more sector stats.

In December 2008, when we asked for the year’s sector stats, DCPI said we would have to file a formal Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) request. So, we FOILed. A month later (government agencies are required to respond within five business days of receiving the request) 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.
We are not the only ones the NYPD is avoiding. Last December, the New York Times and New York Civil Liberties Union sued the agency for consistently delaying or denying information it is required by law to disclose. “Information that was once released is now withheld,” said a lawyer for the Times Company. “Disclosures that could be made quickly are put on hold for months.”

All we’re asking for is information that will keep residents better informed and more able to help the NYPD keep our streets safer. We’ve waited long enough -- 350 days since June 3 to be precise. We’ll keep tallying the days until the NYPD fulfills its duty to provide basic public information to the citizens it has sworn to protect.


  1. I hope you have involved your elected officials on this one... your council member should be fighting for your right to FOIL (it is disturbing how often I use that as a verb now!)!

  2. What we should do is organize a protest demonstration in front of the precinct, better yet a larger one at One Police Plaza! Of course we can also invite the media. Come on people, get organized!

  3. Rabble! Rabble! Let's get angry yelling people to get what we want!

  4. I didn't say anything about angry, yelling people. No need to act the fool, or for foolish interpretation of my remark. Peaceful protest only.

  5. They are not giving you the info because the numbers are changed from the real stats. After a police officer takes a report, the stats office upstairs, changes a lot of them to lesser crimes. For example, If a report does not say "signs of forced entry" or "attempted entry, damage to lock and bent doorframe, and just written as damage to door, many many times it will be changed to criminal mischief instead of attempted burglary or burglary. The nitwits that run 1 police plaza are afraid once the "reported" statistics are released, that the police officers in the precints, many of whom keep photocopies of the real reports they take, will add it all up as a precinct and have "real smoking gun proof" that they can use in a federal court. It is as common if not more so that fixing a ticket was. Since the dept is so badly managed, micromanaged from the puzzle palace, and cops are so fed up with the dept. they are starting to ensure the "Compstat fix" is prevented by very carefully writing a full page with as many details as possible, exactly imitating the language in the corresponding penal law code including every necessary element of the crime so the stats office cant shitcan the number. number meaning another hit, or number like 1,2,3 complaint number for the crime reported. There are people in the precinct in charge of calling up the complainant to ask them if they are really sure of the dollar amount of the stolen or damaged items, or similar tactics, in order to reduce the number of complaints on paper and/or the dollar amount of the value for the crime. because many times, if under a certain dollar amount, the crime is classified as a misdemeanor instead of a felony. Also the stats office in every precint has a giant shredder to shred the actual report if it is changed and rewritten. It is all done under the mayor and police comissioner's, and all of the chiefs direct orders. This is what is expected of precinct CO's- commanding offiers, and if they do not do a good job, they do not get promoted to deputy inspector. Police officer to captain is just a promotional exam, if you pass, they have to promote you. from dep. inspector, up, its an appointment. If the numbers are too high, crimewise, CO does not get promoted. This is all done behind the police officers that take the real initial reports backs and hidden from them. very secretive. Ray Kelly, Mr. Bloomberg, and all of the chiefs involved should all be fired or put in jail for it. The FBI will not investigate because lower crime stats are good for them too. The property rates stay up, people who would leave NYC dont leave because everyone believes the lies. Really Really messed up. If anyone had an idea how really unsafe NYC is, they would all leave if they had enough money to leave. Most if not all of the reported crimes with unknown perps, or the victim can not positively id, are declassified to a lower crime. That in and of itself is a crime. I sincerely hope that you and everyone else goes to protest in front of 1 police plaza, and every precinct in NYC, and the real numbers are released. The foil thing will take 3 years til they are forced to release them and it will be redacted and blacked out. This is the real story of the NYPD, 100,000 times bigger and worse than the summons scandal. good luck.


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