The previous post on that New York World stop-and-frisk map got me thinking once again about how critical it is for the NYPD to release crime data for neighborhoods rather than just precincts, which is what the weekly CompStat reports cover. Precincts have populations as large as many cities (for example there are about 150,000 people in the 52nd Precinct). The NYPD understands very well that precinct stats alone are not that not helpful in determining where particular categories of crime listed in the CompStat reports are the most prevalent. That’s why they generate more targeted data, called sector stats, for at least a dozen areas within every precinct in the city.
The NYPD rarely makes this data available. At the Norwood News, where I was editor until last September, we once got it from the 52nd Precinct commander, but NYPD brass prevented him and future commanders from sharing it again. So the last time we got it we waited more than a year for the agency to fulfill our Freedom of Information Law request and they complied only after an NBC-TV report (video) highlighted our editorial campaign to get them to release the data.
The data is critical simply because people have the right to know whether they are safe in their own neighborhoods. Precinct-wide data is not helpful in that regard. Crime may be down precinct-wide but it could be up significantly in a sector (which may be one reason the NYPD is locking down the info). New Yorkers should be able to easily find out where crime is going down and where it’s going up.
And they should have easy access to data that indicates what crimes are on the upswing. Lots of car thefts in the area? A spike in rapes? An uptick in assaults? Knowing this info would help residents ensure their own safety and also be on the lookout for crimes in progress. How can more eyes and ears on the streets not be useful to the NYPD?
Last year, motivated by the Norwood News’ reporting, Council Member Fernando Cabrera introduced legislation that would require the NYPD to release the sector stat data on a regular basis. It’s still in committee and we have a call into Cabrera’s office to find out more about its status. We’ll let you know where it’s at soon. In the meantime, take a look at the bill:
It’s not complicated. The NYPD collects this data on the taxpayer dime, yet keeps it hidden from public view. The legislation above would fix that. We hope to see action on it soon.