For one NYC captain, crime reductions are a numbers racket

New York City police officials are trying to determine whether the commander of a high-crime precinct in the South Bronx falsified reports to show huge reductions in crime.

Capt. Louis Vega of the 41st Precinct was suspended without pay on Oct. 29, pending the results of the investigation after a borough command audit found irregularities in the precinct’s crime reports. The audit corroborated a complaint filed by a precinct informant  said to have been a disgruntled police union delegate who feuded with Vega  in which it was alleged that crimes were being misclassified.

Some police investigators reportedly suspected that felony crimes were being reported as misdemeanors, while misdemeanor arrests were being reclassified as felonies, thus favorably adjusting crime statistics from two directions at once.

The precinct reported a drop in total felony crimes of 25 percent and a decrease in overall crime of 40 percent from Jan. 1 to Oct. 20, compared to the same period in 1995. That’s nearly double the overall drop in crime in the city, which has been experiencing a dramatic decline in crime in the past several years.

In specific crime categories, murder was down by 21 percent; rape, 35 percent; robbery, 25 percent; felony assault, 23 percent; grand larceny, 13 percent, and motor-vehicle theft, 17 percent.

Overall, crime in the Bronx is down 14 percent, police officials said.

The report emanating from the 41st Precinct prompted speculation that other police commanders might be engaging in the same practice to mollify superiors. The New York Daily News quoted an unidentified headquarters source as saying that “in any precinct you could go in and come up with complaints where the charges should be higher. There is tremendous pressure on precinct commanders to produce lower numbers.”

Police Commissioner Howard Safir cautioned that the matter is still under investigation. “We’re still looking at the figures, and if it turns out to be true, we’re going to take disciplinary action against the commanding officer and we will put those statistics back in the proper way,” he said.

Vega is the second Bronx commander to be investigated in the past year for allegedly “cooking the books.” Capt. Anthony Kissick of the 50th Precinct was accused of reducing the number of assault cases by ordering officers not to make arrests in some cases. Instead, attackers were charged with harassment, which is classified as a violation under state penal law.

Kissick was stripped of his command and transferred to the Bronx borough office.

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Published in Law Enforcement News
Dec. 15, 1996.
© 1996, LEN Inc.