The Department of Investigation’s (“DOI”) Office of the Inspector General for the New York City Police Department (“OIG-NYPD”) issued a Report today that independently examined what, if any, data-driven evidence links quality-of-life criminal summonses (“C-summonses”) and misdemeanor arrests to a reduction in felony crime. The OIG-NYPD Report focused on data from the past six years and found no evidence demonstrating a clear, direct link between an increase in summons activity and a related drop in felony crime. In fact, the study showed quality of-life summons activity between 2010 and 2015 dramatically declined with no increase in felony crime. Furthermore, with few exceptions, deeper analysis of specific summons categories and specific patrol boroughs revealed no correlation over time to any increase or decrease in felony crime.
The Report does not challenge the proper use of C-summonses and misdemeanor arrests. Rather, given the costs of summons and misdemeanor arrest activity (including an increased use of police resources, a greater number of individuals brought into the court system, and the impact on police-community relations), DOI’s OIGNYPD’s investigation found that the NYPD must use this data to more carefully evaluate how quality-of-life summonses and misdemeanor arrests fit into its overall strategy for disorder reduction and crime control.
DOI Commissioner Mark G. Peters said, “This is the first ever independent, data-driven investigation into the relationship, over time, of quality-of-life enforcement and felony crime. The results of our investigation call into question some long-held assumptions about the systemic impact of certain tactics and therefore provide a starting point for the NYPD to more fully employ statistical analysis to evaluate these tactics.”
Inspector General for the NYPD Philip K. Eure said, “There has been a great deal of public discussion about quality-of-life enforcement in New York City, but little statistical analysis of its temporal relationship with felony crime. Understanding these statistical relationships is integral for the NYPD to efficiently and effectively deploy its resources while continuing to be responsive to community quality-of-life concerns. It is important that the NYPD identify what has contributed to recent historically low rates of felony crime so that the Department can put police resources where they matter most.”
Quality-of-life policing can take many forms and is a broader concept than quality-of-life “enforcement,” as defined in the Report, which encompasses a specific and narrow range of police activity: the issuance of certain Csummonses for offenses like disorderly conduct, drinking alcohol in public (open container), and public urination,among others, and certain related misdemeanor arrests. This Report did not make findings regarding quality-of-life policing or the much broader concept of the “Broken Windows” policing strategy. The NYPD’s 2015 report, Broken Windows and Quality-of-Life Policing in New York City, claimed that quality-of-life summons and misdemeanor activity have led to less felony crime in New York City. OIG-NYPD took the analysis beyond the NYPD’s raw number counts and rates, and used data-driven evidence and multiple statistical tests to examine whether 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. The Report is also a resource in light of the newly-enacted Criminal Justice Reform Act signed by the Mayor earlier this month, which reflects an effort to decriminalize certain quality-of-life offenses. The NYPD continues to possess the ability to issue C-summonses, where appropriate, and the comprehensive analysis outlined in this Report should assist in shaping the NYPD’s strategy for issuing C-summonses going forward.
The Report analyzed NYPD and federal government data from 2010 through 2015, involving:
Over 1.8 million quality-of-life summonses
Over 650,000 quality-of-life misdemeanor arrests
Over 600,000 felony complaints
Over 200,000 felony arrests
United States Census data, organized and coded to each of the NYPD’s 77 precincts
To conduct its analysis, OIG-NYPD mapped out the data geographically by precinct, to see how the offenses were distributed in the City in 2015, and determined whether there were trends in summons and misdemeanor arrest activity between 2010 and 2015. OIG-NYPD also conducted additional analyses to see whether there were any statistically significant correlations, over time, between quality-of-life summonses, quality of-life misdemeanor arrests, and the seven major felonies (Murder, Rape, Robbery, Felony Assault, Burglary, Grand Larceny, and Grand Larceny of Motor Vehicle).
OIG-NYPD’s analysis resulted in key findings, including
Between 2010 and 2015 there was a dramatic decline in quality-of-life enforcement with no increase in felony crime. In fact, felony crime, with a few exceptions, declined along with quality-of-life enforcement, meaning OIG-NYPD found no evidence to suggest that crime control can be directly attributed to issuing quality-of-life summonses and making misdemeanor arrests.
A deeper analysis of specific summons/misdemeanor arrest categories over time in specific geographic areas showed little-to-no correlation between C-summons activity and felony crime, meaning broad generalizations about quality-of-life summonses as a panacea are not supported by the empirical evidence in OIG-NYPD’s analysis.
Quality-of-life enforcement is not evenly distributed across the City. In 2015, the distribution of quality-of-life enforcement activity in New York City was concentrated in precincts with high proportions of black and Hispanic residents, New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) residents, and males aged 15-20, based on data from the NYPD and the United States Census. Conversely, precincts with higher proportions of white residents had lower rates of quality-of-life enforcement. In many, but not all, instances, the rates of enforcement remained high even after adjusting for crime rates.
The Report also includes seven recommendations aimed at improving the NYPD’s use of data in decision making and encouraging the NYPD to continue to increase data transparency following the NYPD’s release of CompStat 2.0, a new interactive data portal offering incident-level data on an expanding list of crimes. Major recommendations include
The NYPD should rely on a more data-driven approach to determine the relative impact of quality-of-life summonses and misdemeanor arrests on the reduction of felony crime, objectively comparing the statistical impact of quality-of-life enforcement on crime with other disorder reduction strategies. The NYPD should consider both short-term and long-term conditions when making strategic quality-of-life policing decisions. This will allow the NYPD to be less reactive and ultimately more strategic in its quality-of-life deployment.
The NYPD has recently made incident-level felony data available to the public through CompStat 2.0. OIG-NYPD applauds the launch of CompStat 2.0 and encourages NYPD to make additional incident level and long-term data available for public study.
The Office of the Inspector General for the NYPD (OIG-NYPD) is an oversight office charged with investigating, reviewing, studying, auditing, and making recommendations relating to the operations, policies, programs, and practices of the New York City Police Department (NYPD). The goals of OIG-NYPD are to enhance the effectiveness of the police department, increase public safety, protect civil liberties and civil rights, and increase the public's confidence in the police force, thus building stronger police-community relations. OIGNYPD is part of the New York City Department of Investigation and is independent of the NYPD. Inspector General Eure reports to DOI Commissioner Peters.
The New York City Department of Investigation (DOI) is one of the oldest law-enforcement agencies in the country and is New York City’s corruption watchdog. DOI investigations may involve any agency, officer, elected official, or employee of the City, as well as those who do business with or receive benefits from the City. DOI’s strategy attacks corruption comprehensively, through systemic investigations that lead to high-impact arrests, preventive internal controls, and operational reforms that improve the way the City runs. Learn more at www.nyc.gov/doi.