Posted by Jay Livingston
The NYPD doesn’t record all the crimes that victims report. That’s the shocking news on the front page of this morning’s Times (here).
A bit of history. In 1950, the number of burglaries in New York jumped by
Prior to 1949, the policy on most reported burglaries was “canning.” The victim would report the crime, the police would listen, and then “refer the case to Lieutenant Can.” For reasons I cannot remember, the chief of police issued an order ending, or greatly reducing, that policy. As a result, the next year, New York had
What if a similar directive were issued today? The official numbers will rise, but everyone will know that this reflects a change in policy, not a change in safety. The trouble is that in the long run, there’s a sort of law of thermodynamics entropy eroding full reporting. Police reap no rewards for reporting more crime. Precincts or cities that report more crime may feel the wrath of the brass, the media, or the citizens. Rewards flow to areas with less crime, and NYPD chiefs will compare precinct with precinct, and they will compare this month with last month. Under these conditions, precinct commanders feel pressure to have lower crime numbers, and if the criminals and victims won’t cooperate in that effort, theres always Detective Can or his current equivalent.
Honesty and accuracy are nice in principle, but Compstat is what matters.