2009-01-16 / Columnists

It's My Turn

The Great Crime Coverup
By Marquez Claxton, Detective, NYPD (Ret.) Candidate, City Council, 31st District

Maequez Claxton Maequez Claxton Marquez Claxton is a retired NYPD detective who is running for the City Council seat in the 31st Council District against incumbent James Sanders Jr. He is also a co-founder of the 100 Blacks in Law Enforcement Who Care.

Recently, Mayor Bloomberg and his Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly announced that for the 18th straight year crime was down in the City. This overhyped announcement has become an annual end of the year ritual that has grown as old as it is misleading. This bold announcement is based on selective data and sleight of hand. The NYPD has skillfully classified seven crimes as "major." It is the statistics and data of those crimes that they chose to publish. Lost in the glare of the spotlight of self-aggrandizement is the reality that most crime that is committed in this city is not among their chosen seven classifications.

In their announcement they tout, parade and present data on murder, rape, felony assault, robbery, burglary, grand larceny and grand larceny - auto (car theft). The hundreds of other crime categories barely get referenced yet alone quantified. Consider that misdemeanor assaults, petit larcenies, criminal trespass, both criminal sale and criminal possession of a controlled substance, criminal sale or criminal possession of marijuana, criminal possession of a weapon and the countless other crimes covered by the New York State Penal Laws are not even mentioned in the annual crime count charade. In many communities throughout this city these unmentioned crimes are very much what ails them. Why the Mayor and the NYPD would not quantify these and other crimes is a lesson in spin and public relations. Furthermore it would be most helpful if the final dispositions of all of the crimes reported were also reported annually so that a more comprehensive assessment of the current anti-crime strategies could be made. What analytical value does a report of a crime have if not put in context of arrest, summons, conviction, dismissal, etc. It is misleading, disingenuous and outright dangerous

to offer a false sense of security to people who deserve the public safety service that they pay for. Another absurd reality of the NYPD crime data is that it is not independently audited for veracity. Ignored are the very serious allegations of manipulation made not only by police officers themselves but the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association as well. That's right, even the union has asserted that there is a systemic manipulation of crime complaints throughout this city. Understand that in the current NYPD, precinct and specialty unit commanders are promoted

in large part based on statistics. The current crop of NYPD commanders are required to be statisticians who must become numbers-proficient because of the grossly bastardized COMPSTAT system. In order to avoid professional embarrassment and to gain promotion, NYPD executives are pressured into ensuring that the crime numbers show a downward trend by any means necessary, although officially denied. Just as the quota system places undue pressure on police officers, the COMPSTAT reward or penalty system creates an environment that is ripe for corruption. Any police officer can tell you how often a legitimate grand larceny or burglary can turn into the overlooked petit larceny or how a felony assault ends up being a misdemeanor assault. Downgrading crime reports has become standard practice for the supervisors who 'review' each report. Absent external, independent auditing of the NYPD crime reporting system, we are forced to rely on the honor system. Charged with the oversight is the New York City Council Public Safety Committee but they are still allegedly begging for "stop and frisk" data from several years ago.

The end of the year "crime is down … again" announcement is a three card Monty game. It is time that we ask to see all the cards. Until the NYPD becomes more transparent and comprehensive in their reporting we are best served trusting our reality as opposed to their misrepresentations.

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