from the don't-be-shitty dept
There’s no reason for the New York Times to be this bad at reporting. It has plenty of resources and a slew of editors, and yet we get headlines like this one, which says something completely false:
If you can’t read/see the screenshot, this is the original headline attached to an article that says nothing of the sort:
After Murders ‘Doubled Overnight,’ the N.Y.P.D. Is Solving Fewer Cases
Murders did not “double overnight.” The murder rate in New York City hasn’t doubled at all. Here’s what the murder rate looks like according to the NYPD’s own stats:
So, where does this “murders doubled” quote come from? Who knows. The article doesn’t provide a source for this supposed direct quote (remember, there are quotes around “Doubled Overnight”). At best, one can extrapolate the statement in the headline from a very different statement provided by a former Baltimore PD officer who is now the director of, um, something called the “John Jay College’s NYPD Executive Master’s Program.”
Here’s the NYT pull quote:
“The increase in shootings, that’s got to have a negative impact on clearance rates,” said Peter Moskos, a professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice. “Their caseload literally doubled overnight. The odds are never great. That’s the unfortunate truth.”
The first part (“that’s got to have…”) is pure speculation. So is the rest of it. Someone asked a cop to offer a statement on cop stuff and received something exonerative from someone who used to be a cop but now teaches a masters program aimed at NYPD officers.
At best, it’s maybe “caseloads doubled overnight.” But it’s unlikely this has happened either. And, if we’re going to examine year-to-year crime rates, whatever increases officers in the Bronx (the article occasionally focuses on the family of a Bronx murder victim) have seen in caseloads and reported crimes still cruises along at historic lows for the city that never sleeps.
The headline and the article to a disservice to the purported subject: the survivors of an unsolved murder. Cops have never been great at solving murders and the NYPD is no exception. Unfortunately, the article also lies about clearance rates, which have historically been nowhere near what is claimed by the reporter.
In the years before the pandemic, the New York Police Department was solving nearly 90 percent of the murder cases in the city. But in 2020, as shootings and homicides increased, the percentage of homicides the police solved, a statistic known as the clearance rate, plummeted to around 60 percent, according to the department’s records.
This is just inexcusable. Anyone can pull up these records. The article is (deliberately?) vague about how many “years before the pandemic” it’s talking about, but nothing in the NYPD’s own records suggests it has maintained a 90% clearance rate for murders.
People cherry-picking data may find a quarter from the last three years that shows something approaching 90% clearance, but the NYPD as a whole has never consistently approached the number stated in this article. And the published numbers have their own problems. Every so often, precincts report clearance rates above 100%, which suggests these are rolling averages that simply add solved cases to the total, no matter how long it has been since the crime was reported.
I would normally use the phrase “to its credit” before reporting that the NYT altered its headline less than a day later to have at least one less lie in it. Instead of “murders doubled,” it simply says “murders increased.” But “credit where it’s due” applies, and the NYT is so far in arrears in the credibility department that no credit will be issued. The NYT added quotation marks to quote something no one actually said and turned a NYPD-oriented professor’s speculation into an eye-grabbing “fact.”
Its extremely casual relationship with the truth does no favors for the purported subjects of its article: a tortured family hoping for some justice and closure following the senseless murder of their son in a local bodega. Instead of focusing attention on historically low clearance rates, the paper decided to sell fear to its readers. It irresponsibly claimed readers were surrounded by murderers and the police were powerless to stop them.
What the NYT should have asked is why clearance rates were so low, given the NYPD’s considerable resources. And it should have asked why it takes a pretty white woman dying to motivate law enforcement to put those considerable resources to use. In the grand scheme of all things policing, nothing means less than the death of a young black man. And that’s the real story — one that the Times chose to ignore in favor of misrepresentations and law enforcement-friendly extrapolation.