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The Case for CompStat

The recent CompStat controversy in the NYPD has caused quite a stir within the law enforcement world. Although a new study attempts to throw doubt on the pioneering crime tracking and accountability system—claiming that many retired officers reported that they were aware of crime stats being fudged—many law enforcement professionals are defending the system.

Heather Mac Donald, who recently wrote about the death of the poverty=crime theory, just published an article defending CompStat. She calls the new study’s findings “irredeemably-flawed” and shallow. Then she goes on to vigorously defend the NYPD’s CompStat policy, using concrete examples and well thought out logic. Says Mac Donald, “Nothing in the survey discredits Compstat or its crime-fighting accomplishments.”

She goes on to discuss the NYPD’s audit system and the attitude from current officers that number’s tampering is both strongly discouraged and considered a career killer for any officer attempting to do it.

Here is another highlight:

“The NYPD’s intense dedication to reliable data grows out of the Compstat philosophy itself. One of Compstat’s most powerful accomplishments was to yoke crime data and analysis intimately to deployment decisions. Compstat can accomplish its crime-lowering goal only if the crime data that commanders scrutinize so obsessively is accurate. ‘Jack Maple [Compstat’s flamboyant co-originator] stressed the necessity for accurate and timely intelligence,’ recalls Edmund Hartnett, a former executive officer of the NYPD’s Narcotics Division and now commissioner of the Yonkers police department. ‘Everything that we do is based on crime data; if the data is not accurate or you are missing dots on the map, you’re not deploying properly.’ A pattern of felony thefts ignored because of data manipulation will spread and worsen, a contagion that no police commissioner should be confident can be manipulated out of public awareness. In the Compstat era, commissioners live and die by the reality of crime. It is overwhelmingly in their self-interest to ensure faithful crime reporting since, without it, they will misallocate their scarce crime-fighting resources.”

If you are in any way interested in the survival of CompStat as an effective crime-reduction program, I highly encourage you to read the article in it’s entirety here: http://www.city-journal.org/2010/eon0217hm.html

James Gunter is the editor of The Crime Map and the director of social media for CrimeReports.com.

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