Low-Level Arrests Don't Make Us Safer: Report

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NYPD Inspector General Philip Eure and DOI Commissioner Mark Peters

The NYPD’s Inspector General says there is no evidence that increasing arrests and criminal summonses for quality of life offenses helps cut down on felonies — challenging a core tenet of the ‘Broken Window’-style of policing Commissioner William Bratton pioneered and continues to support.

“This is not a technique that seems to have any real impact on crime reduction,” said Mark Peters, commissioner of the Department of Investigations, who oversees the Inspector General. His agency released a report Wednesday on quality-of-life enforcement and felony crime.

The Inspector General’s Office examined summonses and misdemeanor arrests for minor crimes like urinating in public and riding a bike on the sidewalk between 2010 and 2015. Investigators looked to see if “shifts in quality of life enforcement activity actually had any measurable relationship over time with the city’s felony crime rates. The report, with limited exceptions, found no such relationship,” according to the agency.

Peters said there’s a cost to aggressively policing quality of life crimes, which take a lot of resources from the cops and courts.

“And it brings a lot of New Yorkers into the criminal justice system,” he added.

The NYPD called the report deeply flawed.

This is the department’s full statement:

The Inspector General’s report and its basic assumptions and so-called statistical methodology are deeply flawed.

The report fails to acknowledge what all New York City residents know: that every community in the city is safer and has a better quality of life due in large part to the extensive quality of life enforcement efforts and proactive policing that was implemented in 1994 by the New York City Police Department.

The report fails to acknowledge ‎that a tremendous ‎number of quality of life‎ enforcement is in response to specific and repeated complaints from members of the public. The report attempts to evaluate quality of life enforcement solely on summons and arrests; it does not consider the many other components of our quality of life program.

The first reason to issue a summons for public urination, for example, is because it is illegal to urinate in public anywhere in New York City. The report fails to recognize that fact and does not discuss the impact public urination has on all communities throughout the city.

Furthermore, the report uses a narrow, five-year time period when overall crime rates have declined in New York City for more than two decades. To properly evaluate the impact of quality of life enforcement, the Inspector General should have gone back to 1990, when there was a record number of murders, shootings and violent crimes and examined the years before the decline and to present.

We will release our more detailed written response to this flawed report within the next 90 days as the statute creating the Inspector General requires.

What is completely ironic, is that the Inspector General’s own release says: This report did not make findings regarding quality of life policing or the much broader concept of the “Broken Windows.” One wouldn’t know that, reading today’s news coverage.

This is the Department of Investigations response:

In response to the statement issued today by the NYPD regarding DOI’s Report on its analysis of quality-of-life enforcement:

We strongly disagree that our Report’s statistical methodology is “deeply flawed.” Our team of statistical and law enforcement experts ensured that each point made in the 84-page report accurately reflected the data provided to us by the NYPD and was in context. Indeed, despite the heated rhetoric, the NYPD demonstrates no actual methodological flaws.

• To suggest that the report does not recognize the value of quality of life policing or the need to crack down on public urination is absurd given that we acknowledge this in the very first paragraph of the report, as well as in other places throughout the report.

• Regarding the six-year timeframe, we were not writing a history of quality of life policing. We were interested in what works now. As everyone in law enforcement knows, New York is a different city now and data from 25 years ago does not speak to effective policing today.

We hope the NYPD will review the report carefully in the coming weeks and we look forward to working together to improve policing in New York City.