The Crime Numbers Game: Management by Manipulation

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ISBN 9781439810316
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  • Presents a critical analysis of Compstat based upon primary research
  • Uses data from the NYPD available only to the authors
  • Discusses both academic and practitioner views
  • Contains numerous data tables and figures that reveal Compstat's strengths and weaknesses
  • Reviews current NYPD leadership approaches
  • Provides specific recommendations to advance police theory and practice


In the mid-1990s, the NYPD created a performance management strategy known as Compstat. It consisted of computerized data, crime analysis, and advanced crime mapping coupled with middle management accountability and crime strategy meetings with high-ranking decision makers. While initially credited with a dramatic reduction in crime, questions quickly arose as to the reliability of the data.

The Crime Numbers Game: Management by Manipulation brings together the work of two criminologists—one a former NYPD captain—who present the first in-depth empirical analysis of this management system—exposing the truth about crime statistics manipulation in the NYPD and the repercussions suffered by crime victims and those who blew the whistle on this corrupt practice.

Providing insider insight into a system shrouded in secrecy, this volume:

  • Documents and analyzes a wide array of data that definitively demonstrates the range of manipulation reflected in official New York City crime statistics
  • Explores how the consequences of unreliable crime statistics ripple throughout police organizations, affecting police, citizens, and victims
  • Documents the widening spell of police performance management throughout the world
  • Reviews current NYPD leadership approaches and offers alternatives
  • Analyzes the synchronicity of the media’s and the NYPD’s responses to the authors’ findings
  • Explores the implications of various theoretical approaches to Compstat
  • Offers a new approach based on organizational transparency

Presenting a story of police reform gone astray, this book stunningly demonstrates how integrity succumbed to a short-term numbers game, casting a cloud on the department from which we can only hope it will emerge.

For more information, check out the authors' blog, Unveiling Compstat, at and their website.

Eterno and Silverman’s work in this book was cited in the article The Truth About Chicago’s Crime Rates: Part 2 in the June 2014 issue of Chicago magazine.

The Authors in the News

The authors' studies on crime were featured in a November 1, 2010 New York Times article and their comments were published on the editorial page.

Their work was also cited in a November 30, 2010 Uptowner article about police manipulation of crime statistics.

Silverman and Eterno described a proposed strategy for improving community confidence in the integrity of crime statistics in a January 24, 2011 Daily News article.

On August 22, 2011, Eli Silverman commented on a recent rise in NYC crime statistics in a New York Post article.

On November 29, 2011, the Village Voice featured an article written by Silverman and Eterno on crime statistics manipulation and recent corruption scandals.

Eli Silverman was interviewed by the Plainview Patch in a December 20, 2011 article about people's perception of crime in a community.

The book is cited in a February 23, 2012 Wall Street Journal article about a lawsuit filed by a NYPD officer.

John Eterno was a featured guest on Talkzone Internet Talk Radio on February 25, 2012.

Eli Silverman spoke in a February 27, 2012 NY1 Online video about concerns regarding NYPD's stop and frisk policy.

The book was profiled in a February 27, 2012 article in The Chief, a weekly newspaper for New York civil service employees.

The authors appeared on a March 26, 2012 local ABC news program about underreported crime rates.

thePolipit blog discussed the book on April 2, 2012.

John Eterno was quoted in an April 9, 2012 New York Times article about the NYPD's stop-and-frisk policy.

Eli Silverman was quoted in a May 2, 2012 article about rising New York City crime rates.

A New York Times Op-Ed piece referenced Eli Silverman on May 13, 2012.

John Eterno's Op-Ed piece entitled "Policing by the Numbers" appeared in the New York Times on June 17, 2012.

The book was cited in a June 19, 2012 Mother Jones article.

John Eterno was featured in a Reuters TV program about the NYPD's "stop and frisk" policy.

Eli Silverman testified on April 4, 2013 in a class action lawsuit related to the NYPD stop and frisk policy.

On July 14, 2014, an article written by John Eterno and Eli Silversman about Police Commissioner Bratton's stop-and-frisk policy appeared in the New York Daily News.

Table of Contents

Forewords by Sir Hugh Orde, OBE, QPM, President of the Association of Chief Police Officers for England, Wales and Northern Ireland and Commissioner Andrew Scipione, APM, New South Wales Police Force, Australia
The Unusual Suspects
Police under Arrest
Numerical Performance: Distortions and Displacement
Compstat Conversions
Private Sector Performance Shortcomings
Unraveling the Puzzle
The NYPD’s Untold Story: Crime Report Manipulation
Survey of Retirees
Crime Victims Coming Forward
Detective Harold Hernandez
Hospital Data
New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services Data
Recently Released Historical Data
The Letter of the Law
NYPD Complaint Reports for Illegal Drug Use
Admitted Problems with Manipulation by the NYPD and
Other Jurisdictions
Our Report Goes Public
Performance Management: Pitfalls and Prospects
Organizational–Managerial Consequences
Field Operations Restrictions
Societal Consequences
Prospects for Reform
Performance Management in New York City: The Use of
Symbolic Language
Police Performance Management: The View from Abroad
Performance Policing in the United Kingdom
Big Bad Bully Bosses: Leadership 101
The Unrelenting Pressures of NYPD Compstat
Bullying Behaviors by Management
NYPD and the Media: Curbing Criticism
The Condemnations
Understanding NYPD–Media Spin
The Nature of Police–Media Interactions
The NYPD and the Media: Political Ramifications
Promoting Favorable Stories
Suppressing Dissent
Marginalizing Criticism
Conclusion—Conflicting Forces
Compstat: Underpinnings and Implications
Broken Windows Theory and Compstat
Limited versus Unlimited Government
Social Science Theory and NYPD Compstat
Specific Examples
Silence Is Not An Option
Lesson Learned
Chapter Ramifications

Author Bio(s)

Editorial Reviews

" … absolutely worth reading. It raises serious concerns which, if true, amount to a terrible management system which has been allowed to run amok—raising some frightening civil liberties issues. It should be read by anyone involved in law enforcement and public safety statistical analysis because it highlights many possible ways to game the system and then describes the unintended consequences of such gaming."
—Nick Selby, in Police-Led Intelligence