The Village Voice reports that the number of lost-property reports filed with New York City police jumped by 44 percent from 1997 to 2004. Nearly half of that increase occurred in the last two years of that period. And 2005 was on pace, as of November 1, to beat out the previous year. Why? The most obvious suspect in the lineup: Police are taking complaints that once would have been treated as grand larceny or another property crime and reporting them as “lost property.”
“This would be what’s known in the business as ‘unfounding,’ ” said Samuel Walker, a criminologist at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. “They’re not making out a crime report when a crime may have been committed.” Grand larceny is one of the closely watched seven major “index” crimes monitored in the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report, the basis for Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s claim that New York is the nation’s safest large city. It makes up nearly 60 percent of the reported index offenses, so police commanders know that if they are going to get their numbers down, they have to report fewer thefts.