Home News Arresting numbers: NYPD clearance rates are finally published

Arresting numbers: NYPD clearance rates are finally published

It took a lot of nagging from the news website Hell Gate, but the NYPD finally complied with a 2017 City Council-passed law and released clearance rates for the past five quarters. Clearance rates are the percentage of reported crimes that result in an arrest — the share that cops consider solved.

The NYPD should have been releasing the data all along, not only because it’s the law, but because, while not a perfect indicator of effectiveness (the stats don’t represent actual convictions or account for dismissals or acquittals), clearance rates do say a good deal about how effective police are at doing what most of the public considers their core job.

So what do these numbers reveal? A few things.

The headline number is that in the past year, the NYPD has made arrests in just 39% of major crimes reported citywide. To solve a crime, cops often need the cooperation of witnesses as well as independent forensic evidence. Nor should anyone put so much pressure on upping clearance rates that they incentivize making any arrests over making good arrests.

That said, when a serious crime — one of the “seven major” index crimes — is committed and reported, it’s fair to expect that with sufficient resources thrown at it, a solid majority can get solved. The worst-case scenario is a place like St. Louis, where, according to a stunning new Marshall Project investigation, a majority of murders over the last decade remain unsolved, with numbers especially high in neighborhoods with the most violence.

When people get killed in bunches and people come to expect that murderers are going to be able to get away with it, that effectively fuels a vicious cycle of violence and cynicism, discouraging reporting and encouraging more crime.

New York is nowhere near such a bleak reality; eight of 10 murders here result in an arrest, a number that compares quite favorably to the national rate of 52%. In the boroughs, the range is from 76% in Brooklyn to near 100% on Staten Island.

Clearance rates for rape are low at 44% citywide, a chronic problem for a crime highly reliant on victim and witness testimony, but also one that’s often not consistently been taken seriously enough by police. That too demands deeper study.

Car thefts, which have spiked in recent years thanks in no small part to faulty design by Kia and Hyundai, are rarely solved: That clearance rate is 16%, suggesting that the criminals have good reason to believe they can get away with it. That’s a problem.

Because the NYPD changed its crime reporting process to a better system last year, the NYPD would have to share raw information for anyone to know how the numbers truly compare to the past. It hasn’t done that yet; it should, and soon.

To foster cooperation to help solve cases, NYPD brass should look to build bridges with communities wherever possible — something that’s most certainly a two-way street, given too many New Yorkers and their leaders are wrongly hell-bent on making policing an us-vs.-them dynamic.

Finally, there’s room for intelligent new tools that help solve crimes. We don’t want invasions of privacy or dumb ideas like robots on subway platforms, but DNA, fingerprints and security cameras were huge breakthroughs. There’s surely room for innovation that respects New Yorkers’ rights and brings more perpetrators to justice.


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