Tuesday, November 23, 2010

“Disappearing” Urban Crime

By Nicholas Stix

May 26, 2004

(See also, by yours truly:

“De-Policing in America’s Cities: Erasing the ‘Thin Blue Line’”;

“The War on the Police”; and

The State of White America-2007, chapter on crime.)

“The news for New York City is spectacular,” New York’s Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg told a City Hall press conference on May 24. He and New York Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly [Email him] were claiming credit for new FBI crime stats showing major crimes—murder, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, car theft, larceny and arson—dropping 5.8% in the city in 2003. New York’s crime rate now ranks it 211th of the 230 U.S. cities with 100,000-plus population—behind Omaha, Nebraska and Wichita, Kansas.

Unfortunately, there must have been at least one skeptic at the press conference. Hizzoner reportedly “bristled” at suggestions that the city’s crime stats are being driven down artificially by numbers-fudging police commanders.

“‘C’mon,’ Bloomberg snapped. ‘It is just not the case.’”

In late March, as part of their tactic of negotiating a new labor contract through the media, the New York Police Department’s Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association (PBA) and Sergeants’ Benevolent Association (SBA) attacked the NYPD brass, charging that the city’s miraculously low crime rate has been achieved through fraudulent arrest statistics. On March 23, PBA president Patrick J. Lynch maintained, “We’ve reached a point where some local N.Y.P.D. commanders are forced to falsify stats in order to maintain the appearance of a continued reduction in crime … “Some precinct commanders are cooking the books to make themselves look good. We’re hearing from our members across the city that these things are happening.”

SBA president Ed Mullins had made the same charges on March 3 against Capt. Sheldon Howard, the commander of Police Service Area 9, and on the 23rd, in a joint press release and press conference with the PBA, “calling upon police commissioner Ray Kelly to conduct a comprehensive citywide audit of crime and to develop procedures that will prevent police managers from downgrading or ignoring reported crimes.”

Unlike the usual negotiating hype, however, and in spite of the union bosses having essentially said that their members hadn’t been doing the great job for which they had long taken credit, the charges had the virtue of being true. While the unions charged the NYPD with fudging crime reporting citywide, they emphasized fraud in Manhattan’s 10th Precinct, The Bronx’ 50th Precinct, and Police Service Area 9, which serves housing projects in six Queens precincts. The NYPD admitted only to misreporting in the 10th Precinct, dismissing the other charges out of hand. (Last June, the brass admitted that 203 felonies had been improperly downgraded to misdemeanors in the 10th Precinct during 2002.)

The unions equivocated about the duration of the fraud; they did not want to admit that ten years of miraculous crime “reductions” were based on deception, but the systemic fraud is in fact as old and widespread as the incredible statistics.

But the fudging of crime statistics is not just a story in the Naked City.

On October 23, five New Orleans police officers -- including 29-year veteran, First District captain, Norvel Orazio, who had won awards for reducing crime -- were fired, and a sixth was demoted, for improperly downgrading crime complaints, so that they would not show up in crime statistics. And on February 20, an audit of Atlanta’s police records showed that the suppression and loss of crime records was endemic for many years, with 22,000 police reports of 911 calls disappearing in 2002 alone. (Free Atlanta Journal-Constitution registration necessary.)

(Note that Orazio has continued to be listed as in charge of the First District, many months after he was fired.)

Such mini-scandals have become a blight on urban landscapes, having also occurred in recent years in
Philadelphia and Boca Raton, Florida. I call the method involved the “disappearing” of crime.

Urban police departments have for years been under intense pressure to reduce violent crime, in order to stem the tide of fleeing businesses, attract new business and tourism, and give the impression that their cities are being governed. But blacks and Hispanics have a virtual monopoly over urban violent crime. (In New York City in 1998, 89.2 percent of suspects in violent crimes were black or Hispanic.) And yet, police officials may not offend outraged black and Hispanic criminals, or their supporters in the media and among leaders of their respective racial and ethnic groups, who constantly invent “racial profiling” hoaxes. The job is impossible.

And so, instead of policing hoodlums, today’s modern, urban police managers aggressively police ... impressions. The “disappearing” of crime is one of their leading impression management methods.

Critics may counter, “So, what are you saying, they’re hiding bodies?!” Not at all. Keep in mind, that most crime reporters do not ride alone -- or at all -- late at night in subway cars to observe crime firsthand, drive through city streets listening to police scanners, racing to crime scenes, or do inventory at city morgues. In fact, they are more likely to ride through the city in taxicabs, and many seem to want to know, depending on their politics, only that which either police officials or anti-police activists deign to tell them. Those officials simply refuse to put out reports on many violent felonies in headquarter press rooms or web sites. Detectives engage in the wholesale “unfounding” of crimes. And murders are reclassified as non-criminal deaths. But in most cases, crime is “disappeared” by the street officer who engages in “creative writing,” turning felonies into misdemeanors or non-crimes. (An additional crime statistic reduction strategy, “de-policing,” is beyond the scope of this essay.)

My favorite example of a crime that “never happened” occurred on December 8, 1995. At about 10:30 p.m. on a Queens-bound A train, a man ended an argument with two brothers by shooting one of them, exiting at Kingston-Throop station, in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn.

Riding two cars away, I neither saw nor heard the shooting. However, I interviewed a witness, saw the 20-something, black victim on a gurney, doing a convincing impression of a corpse, his inconsolable, raging (and apparently twin) brother accompanying him, and two emergency medical technicians wheeling away the gurney.

Since the train was a crime scene, we passengers had to exit it and the station, walk through “Bed-Stuy” to the Manhattan-bound local station, take a train three stops, and then turn around on a Queens-bound train that skipped the crime scene station. It took me over three hours to get home that night.

In the subway below and on the street above, I counted no less than 39 police officers of every rank, an extraordinary response.

The huge response was because approximately 12 hours earlier, a black supremacist named Roland Smith Jr. aka Abubunde Mulocko, had entered Jewish-owned Freddie’s Fashion Mart in Harlem, which was besieged by a racist “boycott,” yelled “It’s on!,” and ordered all customers to leave. In what became known as the Harlem Massacre, Smith proceeded to shoot four people, set the store ablaze, murder seven (non-white) store employees, and commit suicide. That made for at least five shootings on December 8.

A few weeks later, I asked NYPD press rep, Officer Kathie Kelly, if there had been any shootings on December 8. She told me she’d get back to me. Later, she informed me, “There were no shootings on the eighth.”

Since 1995, some reporters – most notably Leonard Levitt of New York Newsday -- have intermittently written on “disappeared” crimes in New York, but to my knowledge, I am the only journalist to have actually been at the scene of one. Actually, since 1991, I have fought off at least a dozen racial attacks, including two attempted muggings, all of which were “disappeared” by police or prosecutors, even when I had bloody wounds, when the police had been called to the scene by a subway motorman or (unbeknownst to me) an anonymous witness who corroborated my depiction of events, or when the attack took place on camera, in front of a black postal police officer. (In 1994, a black New Jersey bus driver who had recently fled Brooklyn, suggested that in New York, crime victims require legal representation no less than defendants, if they wish their cases prosecuted.)

On October 11, 1995, reporter William K. Rashbaum, then of the New York Daily News, published a memo he’d obtained from the 50th Precinct in The Bronx. The memo, by precinct commander, Capt. Anthony Kissik, instructed officers in the art of defining down crimes from felonies to misdemeanors or even non-crimes. (E.g., a felony assault would be changed to a misdemeanor case of “harassment.”)

On January 29, 1996, Leonard Levitt reported on two rapes, one murder, and one fatal shooting of a car thief by a police officer (which was eventually counted as a homicide) from the previous December, none of which had been reported by the NYPD. The NYPD brass insisted that a mysterious, unnamed reporter had stolen the crime reports from the press room. And if you believe that, I have a great deal for you on a slightly used bridge. Levitt found out about the incidents when relatives of the victims and the alleged car thief contacted him.

On October 29, 1996, Capt. Louis Vega, commander of the 41st Precinct in the South Bronx, was suspended without pay in a crime statistic fraud scandal. The Daily News quoted a stationhouse source as saying, “in any precinct you could go in and come up with complaints where the charges should be higher. There is tremendous pressure on precinct commanders to produce lower numbers.”

Capt. Vega’s mistake was apparently in violating the first law of lying: Plausibility. Whereas, crime was allegedly down 14% in the South Bronx overall from Jan. 1 to October 20, 1996 compared to the same period in 1995, Vega reported a 40% crime reduction in his precinct.

In January 1998, the NYPD’s Transit Bureau was caught fudging violent crime stats; bureau Chief William Donoghue was forced to resign. NYPD Commissioner Howard Safir, apparently a master of fuzzy math, insisted that the fraudulent underreporting of subway crime by 20 percent did not affect the NYPD’s overall crime statistics: “While a true portrait of citywide crime was being painted, a somewhat skewed picture of crime in the subway was being put forth.”

News stories on the underreporting of crime were almost always published in the far-left Newsday or centrist, Democrat Daily News. The editors of the neo-conservative New York Post so closely identified with Rudolph Giuliani’s mayoralty (1994-2001) that they could not stomach such reporting. Conversely, the leftwing Democrat New York Times’ editors and writers had a consuming hatred of Giuliani, but were too lazy for the gumshoe work. (Such reporting would also have contradicted their “racial profiling” script.)

(I refer sometimes to Newsday and sometimes to New York Newsday, because they are two separate, sister dailies. Newsday has served Long Island, New York since its founding in 1940. New York Newsday was founded in October, 1985. Its parent company, Times Mirror, shut down the daily in June, 1995, after it had incurred losses of $100 million. However, the media giant continued to maintain a Queens edition of Newsday -- a skeleton, compared to its predecessor -- which published New York City news, including crime news. In early 2003, New York Newsday was brought back from the dead.)

On February 4, 1999 Amadou Diallo, an illegal immigrant from Guinea, Africa, was tragically gunned down in the Soundview section of The Bronx by four white NYPD officers from the city’s (since disbanded) elite Street Crimes Unit. The detectives were searching for Isaac Jones, the worst serial rapist in the city’s history, who lived in the same neighborhood, and whose predations had caused hysteria in The Bronx. Diallo resembled the description of Jones. Once Diallo lay dead at the hands of white officers, the frenzied demands to bring in the rapist were forgotten.

As were the stories on fraudulent NYPD record-keeping.

In 1999, immediately following the Diallo shooting, socialist journalists and minority leaders joined to invent the “racial profiling” hoax, in which they charged (and still charge) that urban police round up and even murder innocent, minority men, based solely on the latter’s race and ethnicity. The hoax was a continuation of the war on urban white police begun in the 1960s, which gained new momentum with the 1991 Rodney King case in Los Angeles, and again with the racist campaign initiated following the 1993 New York mayoral election by the Rev. Al Sharpton, to make it impossible for Mayor-elect Rudolph Giuliani to govern the city. The immediate goal of the journalists, who were essentially Democrat Party propagandists, black leaders, and party leaders in perpetrating the hoax, was that of elevating then-first lady Hillary Clinton to the United States Senate over her anticipated rival, Giuliani, whose political fortunes were inseparable from the perceived crime-fighting success of the NYPD. (During Giuliani’s two terms, violent crime allegedly dropped 54.3 percent, while property crime allegedly dropped 54.7 percent per 100,000 residents.)

Establishment, socialist journalists apparently understood that publishing stories showing that police were underreporting crime would contradict their “racial profiling” script. I would not see another story on “disappeared” crime in a New York daily until after Giuliani had stepped down from office, as per term limits, in January, 2002.

Two months into the administration of “Republican” (who prior to the election had been a lifetime, liberal Democrat) Michael Bloomberg, reporter Larry Celona wrote in the March 14, 2002 New York Post, that a rape that had been committed in the 50th Precinct (Tony Kissik’s old command, which by then was run by Thomas DiRusso) “was logged as a lesser crime - thus giving a rare look into what some beat cops say is a statistical sleight of hand used by their commanders.”

“According to many patrol officers, commanders sometimes reclassify major crimes like murder, assault, robbery and rape as lesser offenses to make it appear they are winning the war on crime....

“… the March 8 rape of a woman at a Bailey Avenue hotel was recorded as an ‘inconclusive’ incident. Only on Tuesday, after The Post started asking questions, was the crime properly classified as rape.”

(The redefining of a rape as an “inconclusive incident” is the m.o. of the Philadelphia PD, which for years, according to the FBI, has conquered crime statistics on the backs of most sex crime victims, whose complaints detectives habitually “unfounded.” The Philadelphia PD also pioneered the method of disappearing burglaries through redefining them as the non-crime of “lost/stolen property.” According to a 1998 Philadelphia Inquirer report, “Among police, the practice is called ‘going down with crime.’”)

On June 30, 2003, in “Crime Statistics Doubts Adding Up,” New York Newsday’s Leonard Levitt detailed the reality behind the “reduction in crime”:

• The punishment-by-transfer of an officer in The Bronx (again from the 50th Precinct!) who refused to downgrade a felony to a misdemeanor;

• A former police official having to intercede on a victim’s behalf, to get detectives who had refused to help the victim to take down a crime report;

• A Brooklyn precinct commander discouraging robbery victims from reporting crimes, by refusing to permit the uniformed officer at the scene from taking down a report;

• A multiple-officer tag team talking victims out of filing crime reports;

• Reusing the complaint number of a disappeared crime for a new case, in order to eliminate the first crime’s paper trail; and

• Keeping two sets of books for a precinct’s crime statistics.

More recently, on March 22, Levitt and Rocco Parascandola reported on the case of former 50th Precinct commander Thomas DiRusso. From 2000-2003, when Deputy Inspector DiRusso was on the job, crime allegedly fell 26%, but in the first 10 weeks after he left the precinct, in January, 2004, to head up Brooklyn South Narcotics, crime in the “5-Oh” allegedly increased by 11.2%.

Deputy Inspector DiRusso was reportedly even more aggressive than his predecessor, Capt. Kissik, at reducing crime reports. Officers reported to Levitt and Parascandola, that when restaurant deliverymen were robbed and sought help from the precinct, DiRusso ran them off, threatening to ticket them for riding their bicycles on the sidewalk. His officers were also in the habit of refusing to take down crime reports from victims. But rather than investigate DiRusso, the NYPD has stood by their man.

The reality of “disappeared” crime contradicts the world of managed impressions created over the past ten or so years by police and neoconservative writers such as Heather MacDonald. The aforementioned have touted a crime-fighting revolution that, they say, has rescued cities long thought to be beyond saving. Most notably in New York, radical reductions in official, violent felony counts have led to renewed business investment and tourism. (The tourism, mind you, is usually limited to certain areas that one might call “Potemkin Villages.”) The revolution has been known mainly via two concepts: “broken windows” policing and “COMPSTAT” (computer statistics).

Broken windows theory, as developed by George Kelling and Catherine M. Coles, argues that a crackdown on petty, “quality of life” crime (public urination, public drinking, fare beating, etc.) will lead to a reduction in major crime. “Broken windows” was offered as an alternative to the socialist propaganda model of “community policing,” in which police were supposed to become one with those whom they were to police, becoming live-in social workers who just happened to carry guns. COMPSTAT (computer statistics -- the brainchild of late NYPD detective, crime-guru, and TV producer, Jack Maple), compiles statistics on concentrations of crime by place, day, and time of day. Increased deployments of officers can then rout the malefactors.

Militating against such an anti-crime offensive, are minority leaders and counter-police, who cry “Racism!” at the drop of a pair of handcuffs.

COMPSTAT is a “GIGO” (“garbage in, garbage out”) proposition. But as police have for years been handcuffed by race-baiters, COMPSTAT has routinely been compromised by false data and lack of political will.

But police commanders are not only handcuffed in implementing COMPSTAT by the pro-crime lobby. They are shot in the back by their own chiefs.

COMPSTAT was initially implemented under NYPD Commissioner William Bratton, who had previously run New York’s independent Transit PD (which he then merged into the NYPD), the Boston PD, and who since October, 2002 has run the Los Angeles PD. Bratton instituted COMPSTAT meetings at police headquarters, which became a form of public theater, in which he routinely humiliated precinct commanders who had failed to produce the desired “numbers.” “Bad” (read: honest) numbers were career suicide. Commanders quickly learned what Bratton wanted, and communicated that knowledge through the ranks.

William Bratton left the NYPD in January 1996, but his model stayed, and he and his associates have since spread it across the country. (Bratton’s number two man, John Timoney, was Philadelphia’s police commissioner from 1998-2001.) The result is a police and street culture, in which no one -- save perhaps for livery drivers and restaurant deliverymen in poor neighborhoods -- has any idea what the true face of crime looks like. But COMPSTAT/broken windows makes for great public relations. Or at least it did, until the unions stopped playing ball. Now, one can only hope that more police unions take the initiative to counter the PR job done across the country by the likes of William Bratton and Heather MacDonald.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This is one reason why cops don't want regular people to take videos of crimes or cops. It would seem to prove that they are lying about crimes actually committed. (The other reason has to do with abuse of power by police and arbitrary violations of civil rights of the innocent photographer, but that is obvious.) But now we have a convergence of corruption that works against the rights of you and me - two reasons by two different but aligned factions, who don't want anyone taking pictures. That ain't right.