Huffpost New York

CRIME, PERCEPTIONS OF CRIME, AND THE MEDIA: PART 2

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On Thursday May 27, 2010, the Daily News featured its second article of 2010 about crime in East New York. You can read the 5/27/10 article by clicking here and the 1/12/10 article by clicking here

The fact that two have appeared in the Daily News in under six months calls for closer scrutiny. Let me start with the crime stats themselves. CompStat reports are available to the public, and they take only a few seconds to download and another few seconds to read.

That is the extent of the research done by the Daily News.

Using this method, no wonder East New York continues to stand out as the city's crime capital, a long-held perception partially created by the media, and perpetuated either by those that believe newspapers like the Daily News are really doing their homework when reporting, or worse, by those that use these negative statistics as a badge of honor, as though coming from a crime-ridden neighborhood was something to be proud of.

There are 76 precincts in New York City. It isn't hard to take the CompStat reports and sort them by total numbers of each crime year-to-date, its 2009 year-to-date value for comparative purposes, and the percentage of increase/decrease, also for comparative purposes. It's also not hard to do the same with the grand total for all major crimes (murder, rape, robbery, felony assault, burglary, grand larceny, and grand larceny auto) for the precinct year-to-date, show its 2009 year-to-date value, and the percentage of increase/decrease. To do this all you need is a spreadsheet program and a little time and patience. Again, so far this is not so hard at all. Download a document, read it, type some numbers, build in some formulas, and you're done.

The Daily News article made a point of calling out the 75 Precinct's overall crime number, stating it had increased to 8% (they rounded it, it's actually 8.11%). So just on this point alone, let's see where the 75 Precinct falls in overall crime when compared to the other precincts of the city:

Precinct % of Increase
22* 42.11%
101 15.18%
110 12.87%
24 12.35%
76 9.73%
114 8.97%
75 8.11%
25 7.81%
28 7.47%
100 7.22%

*The 22nd Precinct is also known as the Central Park Precinct.

What about the percent of increase for homicides? We don't even make the top 10; we rank 25th citywide.

Precinct % of Increase
49 300.00%
114 300.00%
72 300.00%
105 300.00%
18 300.00%
50 200.00%
6 200.00%
25 200.00%
26 200.00%
69 200.00%

How about the percent of increase for rape? Not here either. The 75 Precinct ranks 23rd citywide.

Precinct % of Increase
114 600.0%
72 600.0%
49 400.0%
20 400.0%
63 400.0%
5 300.0%
106 266.7%
88 200.0%
81 200.0%
78 200.0%

Perhaps the percent of increase for robberies? Here there is some cause for concern, as we rank fifth citywide, but still not first.

Precinct % of Increase
100 57.1%
103 56.0%
84 51.0%
101 36.1%
75 35.5%
50 30.2%
60 27.8%
83 27.4%
45 23.2%
90 23.2%

And finally, what about the percent of increase for assaults? The 75 Precinct drops down to 33rd citywide.

Precinct % of Increase
69 111.5%
108 72.4%
104 57.7%
76 57.1%
122 52.8%
68 45.8%
14 44.2%
111 42.9%
20 42.1%
81 41.1%

Okay, so East New York doesn't lead the city in overall increase in crime, nor does it lead the city in each violent crime's percent of increase. Surely an examination of the actual numbers of the four violent crimes will show East New York as dangerous badlands described twice by the Daily News.

This is where some extra research is needed. You'll need the population for each precinct, and this is hard to figure out because we are in a census year, and the most reliable source of population data available to the general public is the 2000 Census. You can make minor adjustments to this by factoring in housing development data to get a sense of where the population increased in areas where there was no housing 10 years ago. This is an estimate only and won't greatly affect results because to compare crime correctly you really need to do it on a per capita basis. In other words, take each precinct's population and divide by 100,000, then divide the individual crime's statistic by the adjusted population value.

SPECIAL NOTE: to do this analysis correctly, you'll need to correct something on the CompStat reports. CompStat doesn't handle zeros all that well. For example, if you have 2 murders in 2010 and had none in 2009, you'll see ***.** on the CompStat report. If you plug the numbers into Excel you get the dreaded #DIV/0!. Oddly enough, Excel won't give you the #DIV/0! if you have 0 murders in 2010 but had 2 in 2009. It will show a 100% decrease in murders. So those of you that plan on tracking crime stats on your own, remember to make adjustments for this.

When the CompStat numbers are adjusted on a per capita basis, a very different story reveals itself: there are parts of the city that have significantly more crimes per hundred thousand people. This startling fact is not just for the 2010 year-to-date crimes but goes back decades. To demonstrate this point, I took a look at the same violent crimes of 1995, adjusted per capita, here is what I got for the borough of Brooklyn.

Homicides, per capita. The 75 Precinct ranks fifth borough-wide.

Precinct Total for 1995
81 54.3
79 39.4
73 33.0
77 31.1
75 26.7
67 26.7
60 23.4
76 23.4
88 22.5
84 18.3

Rapes, per capita. In 1995 the 75 Precinct lead the borough in this category.

Precinct Total for 1995
75      87.27
81      85.28
73      84.78
79      80.85
77      79.88
88      76.01
71      71.35
83      67.27
67      55.81
60      52.63

Robberies, per capita. The 75 Precinct drops to fifth here.

Precinct Total for 1995
73  1,730.98
77

Read the whole story at Room Eight