NYPD Killing News on Crime Stats Ray Kelly NYPD Fix Crime Like a Las Vegas Casino
NYPD alters access to local crime data, raising transparency concerns
By Unnamed Author(s) — Tuesday, December 10th, 2013 ‘Al Jazeera America’ / New York, NY
The NYPD made major changes to how it disseminates information on crimes last week by cutting off a long-standing source of information for residents and introducing a new, high-tech source.
On December 5, news broke that the NYPD had ordered all 77 police precincts to stop giving information to the media on neighborhood crimes and to direct requests to the office of the Deputy Commissioner for Public Information (DCPI). The move has prompted some local publications to discontinue their weekly crime blotters.
A few days later on December 8, the NYPD unveiled a new interactive crime map that enables the public to search and view data on major felonies that occur in the city.
Taken together, what do the two moves mean for local residents and journalists?
The end of neighborhood crime blotters?
The NYPD's restriction of media access to local crime information comes in response to a push by journalists for the NYPD to make its local crime reports available and uniform across all precincts. Prior to the change, the majority of precincts allowed journalists access to forms detailing crimes and complaints. Rather than extend access to include all precincts, the NYPD issued a directive to precinct commanders that stated, “Any requests by media to view complaint reports be referred to the office of the Deputy Commissioner For Public Information.”
The policy change was first discovered by The Nabe, a blog that publishes a weekly crime blotter for Brooklyn's Fort Greene and Clinton Hill neighborhoods. The Nabe described its process for publishing its crime blotter, which will be discontinued under the new rules:
Every Wednesday morning, a reporter from The Nabe visits the 88th Precinct and is handed forms outlining the previous week’s felony crime reports, which includes information on all murder, rape, assault, robbery, burglary or theft of property in the precinct. The reporter copies down the information, asks the officers lingering questions from the reports and writes up the crime blotter post. This will no longer be allowed.
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The move by the NYPD has left many residents and local reporters wondering how they will be able to access local crime information with the same level of detail and timeliness. The centralization of local crime information represents a major change in the role the DCPI, which generally only disseminates information about high-profile crimes of citywide interest. In the past, it has not been a source of information about crimes such a burglaries or muggings that residents living in close proximity may want to know about in detail.
A source told the news site DNAinfo, “DCPI is a small unit, so I don't know how they're going to handle it." Reporters could conceivably obtain the local precinct complaint reports by filing Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) requests, but such requests routinely take up to 60 days to process.
In a statement to The Stream, the NYPD said the move will not result in any policy changes at the DCPI office, whose procedures "have been in place for decades." The statement noted that media can "go through DCPI to get information or to set up meetings with their local precincts regarding crime and safety information." The NYPD did not respond to question about whether local complaint reports would be available through DCPI in the same format previously available through many local precincts.
The NYPD also stressed the need to safeguard information contained in many complainant reports, writing, "Complainant reports contain confidential information that could jeopardize the safety of a witness or compromise an ongoing investigation. It is essential that we safeguard ongoing investigations and the identity of victims of crimes and other information."
Note: From Suzannah.
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