From the NY Times:
Felony assaults, along with all other major crimes in the city, have sharply decreased over the last decade, according to the New York Police Department.
But during much of that period, the number of assault victims taken to emergency rooms nearly doubled, according to the city’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.
Comparing the figures is difficult. It is unknown, for example, how many of the hospital assault reports were felonies and how many were misdemeanors, which the Police Department does not regularly report to the public.
But two criminologists say the difference provides more evidence of a Police Department culture that puts so much emphasis on annual crime reductions that some police supervisors and precinct commanders may be manipulating crime statistics.
“Emergency room visits are not going to happen just because somebody needs a Band-Aid,” said John A. Eterno, one of the researchers and a retired police captain. “Somebody is going to go there because they’ve been seriously assaulted.”
Mr. Eterno and his fellow researcher, Eli B. Silverman, presented their latest findings on Friday at a crime data conference at John Jay College.
The news media were not allowed to attend the conference, but the researchers provided reporters with a copy of the presentation.
Much of the presentation focused on a survey of retired captains and higher-ranking officers that The New York Times reported on in February. In the survey, many retired officers said pressure to reduce crime led some managers to alter crime data to show annual decreases in the seven major felony categories measured in the department’s CompStat program.
Police officials questioned the methodology of the survey at the time and pointed to other reviews of CompStat that supported its accuracy.
Police officials said Friday they could not comment specifically on the assault data until they examined the numbers.
Hospitals reported 47,779 assault victims in 2006, the latest figures available, a 90 percent increase from 1999. By comparison, the Police Department reported 19,173 felony assaults in 2006, a 33 percent decrease from 1998. (Numbers from 1999 were not immediately available.) The hospital numbers also show that assaults in which a firearm or cutting instrument was used, almost always constituting a felony offense, also grew, to 5,502 from 3,468, Mr. Eterno said.
Health officials said the disparity was not new and should be interpreted with caution. Part of the rise in hospital assault reports may stem from improved reporting and outreach, they said.