Mayor Bill de Blasio tells anyone who will listen that New York is “the safest big city in America.” And for a long time, that appeared to be true. But signs of rising urban disorder lately have been sending a different message. And increasingly, the mayor’s own safe-city crime statistics seem suspect.
De Blasio stakes his safe-city claim on CompStat, the NYPD’s vaunted policing technology. CompStat is the computer age meets crime fighting: a high-tech, data-driven approach to gathering statistics and deploying resources to drive down crime. The CompStat approach has been adopted by cities around the country and abroad—so trouble with the system could have national and even international implications.
In New York, doubts about Compstat have been rising. For years, journalists have heard rumors of trouble: that the mayor’s office wields too much control over shaping the data; that precinct commanders under-report incidents to keep their numbers down; that patrol cops are encouraged not to report certain crimes; that the stats are rigged.
The spin around the most recent CompStat numbers is a case in point. “New York City recorded an increase in murders, shootings, robberies and assaults in 2019,” the Wall Street Journal reported.
Domestic violence is up, with last year’s 8% increase in murders due in part to intimate-partner homicides. Hate crimes, including anti-Semitism, are up. CompStat has not even counted them until this year. Subway crime is up. But City Hall says that because of a big decrease in burglaries, and declines in rapes and larceny, “serious crime” in New York City is down, dropping one percent last year.
Got that? Murders, shootings, robberies, assaults, domestic violence, subway crimes and hate crimes are up, but serious crime is down.
Mark Twain famously noted there are “lies, damned lies, and statistics.” It’s time for an independent review to sort out which it is at Compstat.
Micah Morrison is chief investigative reporter for Judicial Watch. Follow him on Twitter @micah_morrison. Tips: firstname.lastname@example.org
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