NEW YORK CITY — Lawsuits against the NYPD for misconduct and personal injury dropped 12 percent during the 2015 fiscal year but certain precincts continue to have a troubling number of claims against them, according to an analysis by Comptroller Scott Stringer's office.
According to ClaimStat, a database launched by the Comptroller's office to track claims, complaints against four of five of the agencies that are targeted most with lawsuits — the NYPD, Department of Sanitation, Department of Transportation and Department of Education — all fell by 1 to almost 12 percent.
Claims against the Health and Hospitals Corporation increased by 3.5 percent to 907 in fiscal year 2015 from 876 the year before.
Stringer said there have been "great strides in reducing claims, but there is still room for improvement.”
Total claims against the police fell to 8,519 in fiscal year 2015 from 9,634 the year before. Personal injury claims due to police action also fell 13 percent to 5,007 from 5,727 in fiscal year 2014.
But certain precincts across the city continue to see a troubling rise in claims, the report found. In The South Bronx, claims against the 44th Precinct jumped 36 percent from 289 to 394 . In central Harlem, the 28th Precinct saw claims rise 64 percent from 39 to 64.
There also continues to be a disparity in claims between precincts even when accounting for the number of crimes.
The 44th Precinct and the 13th Precinct in Midtown East have roughly the same number of crime reports. But with only 25 claims against it, the 13th Precinct in Gramercy has 1 claim for every 100 crimes, while the 44th Precinct in The Bronx has 17 claims per 100 crimes.
Eight of the precincts with the highest numbers of personal injury claims are in The Bronx, including the top five.
Still, Stringer praised the progress the NYPD has made "as an example for every city agency to follow." And he suggested that the NYPD implement ClaimStat as part of its CompStat meetings, in which issues across the precincts are addressed on a granular level.
NYPD officials did not respond to a request for comment.
A similar rise in claims exists at the Health and Hospitals Corporation, which saw a small spike in claims to 902 from 876, an increase of 3 percent. But the number of medical malpractice claims at the 11 flagship hospitals increased to 521 in fiscal year 2015 from 495 in fiscal year 2013.
Certain HHC hospitals such as Bellevue Medical Center and Coney Island Hospital saw increases in their malpractice claims while others like Harlem Hospital saw a decline.
Malpractice claims at Bellevue jumped to 80 in fiscal year 2015 from 65 the year before. Coney Island Hospital had 43 malpractice claims, up from 36.
While HHC has reduced the cost of claims, the total number of claims filed is a better measure because lawsuits can take up to a decade to be resolved, says the Comptroller's office.
Still, the costs of the lawsuits are substantial. Medical malpractice lawsuits make up 22 percent of the almost $540 million the city paid out for personal injury claims.
The 2016 fiscal year budget sets aside $710 million for settlements, an average of $83 for every New Yorker. The city paid out $550 million worth of claims in fiscal year 2014 and the figure for fiscal year 2015 was not yet available.
Amy Spitalnick, a spokeswoman for Mayor Bill de Blasio, said the city has "implemented a number of new initiatives to drive down costs related to claims," including "a new unit focused on more strategic and streamlined handling of claims against police officers."
The NYPD risk assessment unit analyzes all claims. Senior NYPD managers also meet regularly with the Comptroller's office to discuss trends in lawsuits.
Earlier this year, de Blasio announced a policy shift to fight "frivolous" lawsuits against the police.
Spitalnick also cited proactive steps the city is taking to drive down claims, such as the city's restoration of a budget to prune tree limbs in city parks. In the fiscal year 2016 budget, the de Blasio administration increased the baseline amount for tree pruning which will allow for trees to be pruned every seven years, the industry standard.
Cuts to the tree pruning budget in fiscal year 2010 drove up a 92 percent rise in claims for tree limb related injuries through fiscal year 2011, Stringer found. Since the budget was restored, tree limb claims against the city dropped 54 percent between fiscal year 2013 and 2014. Although there was a 19 percent increase in tree-limb claims to 207 in fiscal year 2015, that figure is close to historical lows.
Spitalnick said "the City is committed to protecting NYC taxpayers” and cited the increased and stabilized funding for tree maintenance as an example of how they are working to reduce claims.