Two Eminent Criminologists Criticize Report’s Methodology and Failure to Draw Valid Conclusions
Read the NYPD’s full response to the Office of the Inspector General’s report: Broken Windows Is Not Broken
New York, New York—Following the release of The Office of the Inspector General’s (OIG) report of June 22, 2016, titled “An Analysis of Quality-of-Life Summonses, Quality-of-Life Misdemeanor Arrests, and Felony Crime in New York City, 2010 to 2015,” the NYPD has issued a response entitled “Broken Windows is Not Broken,” which soundly discredits the unsupported assertions put forth in the OIG report.
The NYPD is compelled by statute to respond. In doing so, it is addressing not only the OIG’s assertions about what it considers quality-of-life policing, but also its veiled attack on the concept of Broken Windows policing. It must also categorically refute any insinuation that Broken Windows policing is racially discriminatory.
“Going back as far as 1978, in the streets of the Fenway, I have seen community complaints about quality of life conditions dominate conversations between the community and the police,” said Police Commissioner William J. Bratton. “The NYPD’s Neighborhood Coordination Officer Program re-affirms what I learned all those years ago, that neighborhood residents expect action on the part of the police regarding lesser crimes and signs of disorder. Enforcement targeting these conditions has become known as “quality-of-life” policing, and it has been frequently disparaged as a vehicle of oppression that creates racially disparate outcomes. That could not be further from the truth. This type of policing is an essential tool of community engagement and trust building, most often in direct response to community concerns. Quality of life policing will remain a key strategy for the NYPD.”
The OIG report is the culmination of a months-long analysis of the NYPD’s quality-of-life (QOL) summons and misdemeanor arrests from 2010-2015, and the impact of that enforcement on the reduction of felony crime. The study claims to demonstrate QOL enforcement had little-to-no temporal relationship with the decline in felony crime rates across New York City. It also claims to have found that QOL enforcement is not evenly distributed across the city and over time.
In spite of citing the NYPD’s 2015 report titled “Broken Windows and Quality-of-Life Policing in New York City,” which the NYPD published to dispel many of the myths regarding QOL and Broken Windows policing, the OIG report largely ignores most of its most pertinent information, including:
· QOL enforcement in minority communities closely reflects complaints made from those very diverse communities through both 311 and 911 calls, as well as community meetings and public opinion polls.
· The police department has no reason to ignore these calls for service, and, in fact, has a duty to respond.
· In the era of quality-of-life policing in New York City (past 21 years), both city and state prison populations have fallen from previous highs, by 49 percent and 27 percent, respectively. QOL policing is not filling jails.
· The NYPD has scaled back on misdemeanor arrests, down 80,000 at the end of 2015 from their high in 2012, (and another -6.7% YTD through August 2016.) It has also scaled back on summonses, down 300,000 at year-end 2015 from their high in 2005 (and another -9% YTD through 2016).
The OIG report also fails to consider a number of prior studies that evaluated the effect of QOL enforcement on felony crime in NYC, including: Harcourt and Ludwig in 2006; and Rosenfeld, Fornango and Rengifo in 2007. Additionally, the OIG report also:
· Omits fieldwork in which QOL enforcement was witnessed, resulting in very little contact with the NYPD in preparing the study. (Had this been done, OIG would have had exposure to the many levels of discretion exercised by officers while on patrol, which are not documented, or considered, anywhere in the OIG report)
· Selects precincts as population samples. (With populations that often exceed 100,000, precincts do not provide a framework for meaningful comparisons. Street blocks and census tracts are typically more appropriate.)
· Omits fluctuations in population regarding time of day, zoning, etc.
Beyond the NYPD’s own comprehensive review and subsequent rejection of the OIG report, two independent eminent criminologists, Richard Rosenfeld and David Weisburd, have also roundly criticized the report, citing: problems with its research and statistical methodology; the lack of consideration for officer discretion; and the omission of the 16 years prior to 2010 — when misdemeanor arrests strongly correlated to the largest crime decline in New York City history. These criminologists have also determined the analysis contained in the report is not strong enough to support its conclusions.
The OIG has issued a report using questionable methodology and has reached unsupported conclusions challenging a police strategy that has been central to the city’s efforts to promote public safety while also enhancing trust and public confidence in the police department. This report perpetuates misunderstandings about a police strategy that is critical to the well-being of New York City and has played a central role in creating the safest big city in America.