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Burying the Lede

July 16, 2018

Like all successful politicians, Mayor Bill de Blasio knows how to present bad news as good news. To aide him, he has his enablers at the NYPD.

Take last week's news release, headlined: "Overall Crime Continues to Decline in New York City Through the First Half of 2018." The opening sentence reads: "New York City achieved a reduction of 853 crime reports or - 1.8% year-to-date, compared to the same period in 2017."

Click here to read what the police brass say about NYPD ConfidentialIn the newspaper business, that is called "burying the lede." Which came in the next sentence: There were 147 murders reported year-to-date, compared with 136 in 2017. This is an increase of 11 crimes, or an increase of 8.1%.

That uptick in murders could be more consequential than those 853 crime reports.

Murder is considered the bellwether crime because homicide statistics can't be hidden or easily manipulated as other crime figures can. All murders pass through the medical examiner's office. Or as the late great Jack Maple, founder of CompStat, put it: "You can't hide a body in a cemetery."

The rise in homicides was mainly in the Bronx and gang related - exemplified by this month's horrific mistaken-identity machete killing of a Bronx teenager by a Dominican gang known as Trinitarians.

As for those 853 crime reports, most of them occurred in the city's poorest neighborhoods and were filed by some of the city's most vulnerable souls. Some are immigrants, some of whom under the Trump administration, are reluctant to file crime reports for fear of deportation. That, rather than the reduction in crime, could reflect that 1.8 decline, says a former top cop.

At the 40th Precinct, where the mayor held his monthly crime-reduction news conference, he ignored the homicide uptick. Rather he said, "[C]rime remains at record lows and at the end of June, so six months into the year, total crime down 1.8 percent year to date compared to last year. So almost 2 percent reduction in overall crime this point this year compared to the same point last year. Again that makes this the lowest six-month period for overall crime in the modern era."

The mayor was seconded by Chief of Department Terence Monahan. "We have exceeded historic reductions we achieved at this time last year," Monahan said. "Overall crime for the first six months of the year is down 1.8 percent, 853 crimes compared to the first six months of 2017. This is the lowest six-month period for overall crime in the CompStat era.

Click here to read the New York Times profile of Leonard LevittWhen asked what he believed was behind "this uptick in crime in the Bronx," as the questioner put it, the normally intelligent Monahan answered with a straight face: "It's not an uptick in crime. It's an uptick in homicide."

And that's not all, folks. While we're on the subject of misleading crime statistics, maybe this is the time to debunk the claim, begun during the Bloomberg administration and parroted by de Blasio's, that New York is "the safest big city in America." That claim was based on outdated FBI crime statistics that even the bureau acknowledged at the time was misleading.

Click here to read the Washington Post article on NYPD ConfidentialBloomberg's claim - concocted by another NYPD spin genius - was based on the FBI's uniform Crime Report for 2004. An FBI report noted that the crime index had been discontinued in June, 2004, for lack of relevance. As the report stated: "In recent years the crime index ... has not been a true indicator of the degree of criminality."

That's because the old crime index gave equal weight to such non-violent crimes as burglary or larceny as it did to murders, assault, rape and robbery - all violent crimes. The FBI report stated that the non-violent category of larceny made up 59. 4 percent of all reported crime and "the sheer volume of those offenses overshadows the more serious but less frequently committed offenses," such as rape and murder. Rather than total all these crimes together, a more accurate gauge of safety in any city is purely violent crime, the report stated.

Emendation. Here's the latest explanation from the Department of Citywide Administrative Services concerning the city's $1,487,100 contract with Morris & McDaniel, a Virginia consulting firm regarding last fall's police captains' exam. [See NYPD Confidential July 2] According to spokeswoman Jacqueline Gold, "no monies from this contract will be used to pay for work related to the exam ... but covers future work by the firm related to creating Civil Service exams." She adds that over the last five years, the firm has been paid $319,140 to work on three other NYPD exams.

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