The NYPD has been plagued over the last year or so by reports that its officers were manipulating crime statistics by downgrading felonies to less serious crimes. It's a problem the department itself has been monitoring, in a two-year external study ordered by Commissioner Ray Kelly and revealed on Tuesday. The report found that while the department takes great care to audit its own statistics, most of its efforts focus on "human error," meaning accidental mistakes, according to the New York Times. "But for 'an officer who wishes to manipulate crime reporting,' the report said there were 'few other procedures in place that control the various avenues of potential manipulation.' "
From The Times:
The 60-page report describes several instances of manipulation in which felony crimes were marked down as misdemeanors. In one instance “a desk officer scratched out the item values in order to bring the total to below the $1,000 threshold for grand larceny,” which is a felony.
In another instance, police paperwork for lost property “described a complainant who ‘lost property’ following an assault by multiple individuals,” according to the report, which added, “On its face the narrative appears to describe a robbery.”
The effect of the misclassified crimes can be seen in the department's statistics, The Wall Street Journal adds. While the department releases the rates of misclassified crimes, it doesn't show how those errors affect its official numbers: "According to the report, in 2010, when 1.6% of cases were misclassified, robberies were found by the NYPD to have an error rate of 2.1%. The NYPD statistics from that year didn't factor in the error rate, and reported robberies rose 4.8%, when they should have shown that robberies increased 5.4% that year."
The report demonstrates a new willingness by Kelly to open his department up to outside scrutiny, something the City Council has voted to impose on the NYPD anyway in the form of an inspector general. When asked at a news conference whether officers intentionally manipulated crime reports, Kelly replied, "the answer is, from time to time yes."