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Critics Wonder Whether NYPD Might Be Cooking Books To Lower Crime Stats

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- Critics have begun questioning whether the NYPD has been cooking the books to conceal how severe crime is in New York City.

As CBS2 Political Reporter Marcia Kramer reported Friday evening, the questions follow revelations that when Commissioner Bill Bratton ran the Los Angeles Police Department, thousands of serious assaults were misclassified as minor offenses – lowering the crime stats.

During Bratton's watch at the LAPD, certain violent crime stats were fudged, Kramer reported. The Los Angeles Times reported that an estimated 14,000 cases were altered to lower crime levels artificially between 2005 and the fall of 2012.

If the incidents are counted correctly, violent crime in Los Angeles was 7 percent higher during those years than statistics originally stated, the newspaper reported.

The LA Times did not mention Bratton by name, but subsequent New York news reports on the study did. Bratton served as chief of the LAPD from 2002 until 2009 – covering much of the eight-year period the LA Times studied.

Now, some have wondered whether the crime stats might be getting fudged in New York City too.

Crime experts said an increase in murders, combined with intense pressure from Mayor Bill de Blasio's City Hall, puts pressure on police officers to paint as rosy a picture as possible.

"Creative accounting is the way I like to talk about it," said Molloy College Associate Dean John Eterno.

Eterno, a former NYPD captain and director of graduate studies in criminal college at Molloy College, has written a book about manipulating crime statistics. He said NYPD officers tell him they are doing it.

"I've talked to people who have spoken quite honestly with me that these are things that are done regularly now – business as usual," Eterno said. "They're trying to minimize, in any way that they can, the number of murders, the number of assaults, and any of the index crimes – robbery, burglary and so forth."

Eterno said it is done by changing a few words in a complaint. He gave an example of a woman in a bar who finds her pocketbook is stolen while she is not looking.

"The police are then called in, and they'll say, 'Well, did you see anyone steal, you know, take your pocketbook?' (She responds), 'Well, no I didn't,'" Eterno said. "(It) should be a grand larceny. The officers might put that in as lost property."

Bratton refused to comment, referring questions to the LAPD – which said it is working to fix the problem.

De Blasio press secretary Karen Hinton added: "The mayor has complete confidence in Commissioner Bratton's leadership. He has led the effort to make New York City the safest large city in the country."

Former NYPD sergeant Joe Giacalone said the pressure to change statistics comes from the current political climate in New York City.

"There is a tie-in between getting promoted and keeping your crime stats low, so you know, we can't blame the commissioner for everything because there are 76 precincts out there," said Giacalone, now a professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice.

Sources told CBS2 that Commissioner Bratton spoke at a meeting Thursday and warned commanders that such behavior will not be tolerated. Sources also said precinct crime statistics are audited about twice a year by the Risk Management Unit.

But Eterno said in-house monitoring is not enough, and an outside monitor is needed.

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