The New York Police Department has begun providing broad access to data on misdemeanor crimes in the city, putting the information on its Web site, says the New York Times. The data show yearly totals from 2000 through 2009 of 17 categoreis of misdemeanors, as well as noncriminal violations. Spokesman Paul Browne said the release should answer critics who said the department withheld sensitive information. With misdemeanors and major felonies both declining over the last decade, he said, it was clear police were not manipulating crime statistics by downgrading some cases to misdemeanor status to make it appear as though felonies were declining.
Misdemeanors fell to 385,666 last year, from 442,136 in 2000, tracking a decline in felonies. Some analysts said the data could have contained more materials, like complaints about lost property, and suggested that an independent audit might be helpful. John Eterno, a former police captain, was the co-author of an academic survey this year in which a high number of retired upper-level officers indicated that they were aware of “ethically inappropriate” changes to crime complaints. Eterno, now Molloy College, noted that the new data were issued only a few days after the Times filed a lawsuit claiming that the police had engaged in a pattern of withholding information that by law should have been made available.