‘Juking the Stats’ on Crime in the City of Buffalo – Part 1
Do you feel 20% safer? We didn’t think so.
A few weeks ago, a high ranking Buffalo Police official speaking on the condition of anonymity disclosed publicly how the city of Buffalo is ‘juking the stats’ to allow Mayor Brown to claim a 20% reduction in violent crime:
Since then, we have received multiple photos, documents and emails piecing together certain details on how this manipulation has been carried out in time for election season.
We are not talking specifically about filing standard ‘police reports’. Police reports are filed for all types of crimes but do not necessarily count towards the overall crime statistics the mayor touts on the campaign trail. For example Compstat only tracks part 1 crimes which in the city of Buffalo includes ONLY:
Kidnapping? Nope. Manslaughter? Nope. Arson? Nope. Motor Vehicle theft? Nope. Drugs? Nope. Here’s a list of Part II crimes that happen daily, but in Byron Brown’s Buffalo are not necessarily counted in the official police statistics he touts on the campaign trail:
- Simple Assaults
- Forgery and Counterfeiting
- Stolen Property Offenses
- Weapons Offenses
- Prostitution and Commercialized Vice
- Sex Offenses (except rape and prostitution)
- Drug Abuse Violations
- Offenses Against the Family and Children
- Driving Under the Influence
- Liquor Laws
- Disorderly Conduct
- All Other Offenses (except traffic)
- Curfew and Loitering Laws
Feel Safer yet?
So what about shootings? They happen quite frequently around the city of Buffalo. But you wouldn’t know that by looking at the Mayor’s crime stats.
Two weeks ago in Schiller Park during a a little league football game, shots were fired, people scattered and apparently it was quite a chaotic scene. According to comstat protocol, even though police spent hours on that specific scene involving dozens of witnesses and city residents, it will never make the cut.
Remember this poor old lady neglected by the Brown Administration?
Even though her house was riddled with bullet holes, windows broken, even her TV was hit with a bullet, she will not be considered a statistic. Since there is “no body” that incident never happened.
How do we know that? From this memo that’s posted at a Buffalo Police precinct. The memo from an appointed chief goes so far as to joke that since these incidents are now going unreported, “the whole district could be shot up and in no time Buffalo will seem almost as safe as Amherst”
Sure a police report is made for the paper trail and to cover tracks when the media comes looking, but most crimes in the city of Buffalo never get counted in the overall crime stats touted by city officials. Anything sent to compstat needs appointee approval, which means the administration has full control over the people who officially submit the stats.
These are a few ways Mayor Brown get’s to claim a 20% reduction when it’s actually not a reduction at all. The only reduction the city is seeing in crime is a reduction of the crimes being officially reported.
The Compstat system has been heavily criticized in numerous cities across the country (Philadelphia, Baltimore, NYC) after similar evidence showed how stats in those cities were similarly manipulated:
Another criticism of the COMPSTAT program is that it may discourage officers from taking crime reports in order to create a false appearance of a reduction of community problems. According to journalist Radley Balko, “some recent reports from New York City suggest the program needs some tweaking to guard against the twin dangers of unnecessary police harassment and underreporting of serious crimes.” An anonymous survey of “hundreds of retired high-ranking police officials . . . found that tremendous pressure to reduce crime, year after year, prompted some supervisors and precinct commanders to distort crime statistics.”\
Similarly, crimes may be reported but downplayed as less significant, to manipulate statistics. As an illustration, before a department begins using CompStat it might list 100 assaults as aggravated and 500 as simple assault. If there were a similar pattern of underlying criminal activity the next year, but instead 550 assaults are listed in CompStat as simple and 50 as aggravated, the system would report that progress had been made reducing major crimes when in fact, the only difference is in how they are reported.
Manipulating reporting data may also negatively affect personnel and financial disbursement; communities whose improvements (on paper) show they need less resources could lose those resources—and still face the same amount of actual crime on the streets.
Many of these negative effects in the possible weaknesses of the COMPSTAT system were dramatized in HBO‘s The Wire, as part of an overarching theme of systemic dysfunction in institutions. Indeed, “[o]ne of the central themes of the critically acclaimed HBO series . . . was the pressure politicians put on police brass, who then apply it to the department’s middle management, to generate PR-friendly statistics about lowering crime and increasing arrests.” In the show, this was referred to as “juking the stats”.
With all corruption in city government, there is not a single smoking gun. It is a complicated puzzle with many contributing factors. We are combing though more documents and once we redact some of the information in them, we will share another example of how crime stats in the city of Buffalo are being manipulated for political purposes.