Sunday, February 7, 2010

Has it all been a lie?

For the last two decades, city officials have boasted about dramatic reductions in crime in NYC. Each year since 1994, Mayors Guiliani and Bloomberg have proudly announced plunging crime rates, pointing to various statistics and the use of things like CompStat and "broken windows" policing.

For these mayors and their flunkies, this has been political gold. Crime is at historic lows! The city is safer than ever! And on and on and on. This is the main reason our city has had Republican mayors for the last 16+ years. Can't trust those weak on crime Democrats, they argue, the Republicans are tough on crime and have the results to prove it.

But what if it was all a lie? What if those statistics were a fraud?

In the last decade, there have been scandals in things like accounting (Enron, Bernie Madoff, etc.) and war ("proof" that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction turned out to be less than accurate). Until now, however, no one questioned the drops in crime in NYC. Numbers don't lie, went the argument and besides, everyone felt like crime was going down dramatically so that must mean it was true, right?

Not so fast. Today there is a bombshell article that indicates that there was intense pressure on the police to cook the books and manipulate the figures to make it look like crime was a lot lower than it was. Mostly this meant discounting serious crimes and felonies as misdemeanors. Other changes were regarded by cops as unethical. Most of these revelations come from retired police officers who indicated that the golden years of crime reduction weren't so golden after all, and that the public was being fed a bunch of phony, misleading crime statistics.

Sadly there is no smoking gun in these surveys. It just doesn't look very good. But it has lead me and others to believe that our city might not be quite as safe as our public officials want us to believe. And if this is true, it's a disgrace.

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