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NYPD's All-Out Effort Has Done Little to Thwart Robberies

By Murray Weiss | November 24, 2010 4:17pm
A woman walks by a New York City Police Department vehicle on April 6, 2010 in New York City.
A woman walks by a New York City Police Department vehicle on April 6, 2010 in New York City.
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Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

By Murray Weiss

DNAinfo Contrubuting Columnist

The NYPD has been using every weapon in its arsenal to stop the "spike" in robberies in Manhattan, but the effort doesn't seem to be working.

A month ago, in advance of the holiday season, the top brass quietly ordered a broad crime-fighting push – with the heart of bustling Midtown serving as Ground Zero. But rather than see a drop in the robbery rate, the numbers have gone in the opposite direction. That means either the city is undergoing a robbery spree and just in time for the holidays, or that police commanders and cops have stopped gift-wrapping the stats for city officials bent on showing crime is down.

"Every place there are tourists, we are going to pack in cops, but there are going to come from somewhere that is going to suffer," one official said.

Extra cops were pulled from other commands and sent into the borough. Dozens of anti-crime officers were dispatched into Midtown and nearby precincts in Chelsea, Greenwich Village and Lower Manhattan.

Dozens of anti-gang cops were sent into rough Harlem sections in three precincts where shootings and robberies were up. Detectives working in Manhattan Central robbery and the NYPD warrants and fugitive squads were told to hit the bricks and hunt down any predicate robbery felon who was wanted — for any offense — in order to take them off the streets.

Cops on the Upper East Side have resorted to leaving warnings about thievery on car windshields. Young cops on patrol were told they can’t get a day off so that the NYPD can keep police presence high to try to deter crime.

"They're killing the poor kids, like rented mules, to keep the presence up and the stats down through holidays," the official added.

Yet all that effort hasn't dented the rise in robberies. Just look at the numbers since the crackdown began.

Robberies in Manhattan South, below 59th Street, are up 26 percent in the past month, and they are also up 4.6 percent overall in the rest of the borough.

All of Harlem and Washington Heights are experiencing increases. For example, in Harlem, robberies in the 30th Precinct are up 66.7 percent, and up 24 percent in the 32nd Precinct. In the 34th Precinct in Washington Heights, robbery is up 66.7 percent. Greenwich Village has seen a 150 percent jump. Chelsea is up 12 percent; and lower Manhattan has a 300 percent jump.

The situation is so frustrating some precinct commanders are praying to get through the year so they can get their hands on some of the more than 1,000 rookies expected to graduate from the Police Academy to extend their blue line.

But could this stubborn spike be immune to crime fighting strategies? Could there be something else to explain the upswing and why it is not going away? Could it be: The "Schoolcraft Effect"?

Adrian Schoolcraft was the "whistleblower" cop who recorded his supervisors at roll calls in the 81st Precinct and raised allegations of crime statistic fudging to keep statistics down. He was taken to a pysch ward by other cops. But his tapes resulted in department charges against against the commander of the 81 precinct and four other cops. That was in mid-October. The robbery crackdown began a short time later. And robberies are up.

Veteran cops told me at the time that the departmental action was like a cold wind blowing through the ranks. The cops were "scared straight." They were no longer going to under report a crime after seeing a commander face possible criminal charges and loss of his job.

"Here is the real shock," another veteran insider said. "No one's faking the numbers. No one wants to go to jail."

"Maybe 'Enron P.D.' has come to a halt," he quipped.