Police

The NYPD Underreported Rape Due to an Outdated Definition of the Crime

The NYPD failed to update its crime-tracking system—and underreported rape by 38 percent.

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Rape cases have gone underreported in New York City because of a glaring omission by the New York City Police Department (NYPD).

Newsy, the Center for Investigative Reporting, and ProPublica have been investigating law enforcement departments all across the country to find flaws in crime reporting. Their project has already found several cities where rape cases are prematurely closed, allowing them to enjoy artificially high clearance rates. Among them: Wichita, Oakland, Baltimore, and Austin.

The most recent findings focus on an overly narrow definition of rape, which has led to a 38 percent discrepancy between the NYPD's rape reports and those of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

In 2012, the Department of Justice expanded the definition of forcible rape to cover any "penetration, no matter how slight, of the vagina or anus with any body part or object, or oral penetration by a sex organ of another person, without the consent of the victim." The previous definition, which had been in place since 1927, only considered penile penetration of the vagina. The new definition is more favorable to victims of all genders and assault situations.

Several months later, the NYPD's leadership sent out a memo announcing that the department would update its definition in compliance with the new federal understanding. But in the seven years that have passed since then, the NYPD's crime-tracking system, CompStat, has failed to update its definition.

As a result, acts that are now recognized as rape are merely classified—and investigated—as "criminal sexual activity." The NYPD ended up underreporting the crime by 38 percent.

During an appearance this morning on WNYC, Mayor Bill de Blasio said that the NYPD would update its CompStat website to reflect the federal definition "later this year."

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17 responses to “The NYPD Underreported Rape Due to an Outdated Definition of the Crime

  1. Their project has already found several cities where rape cases are prematurely closed, allowing them to enjoy artificially high clearance rates. Among them: Wichita, Oakland, Baltimore, and Austin.

    I wonder who else uses (or doesn’t use) the Federal definition. And given that more broad definition, I’m betting that you’d find countries all over the world probably underreport rape– if one could apply the Federal definition.

  2. So does this mean that we should began to suspect that all these “Crime rates are down; we’re safer than ever stories” might not be true?

    1. It’s interesting that while overall crime is quite a bit down from the 1990s, there’s been a bit of an uptick starting ~2013-14. Some cities have seen a rise in overall crime for sure– even while people keep reporting “crime is down”.

      I think perspective is important. Even when violent crime was on a sharp rise starting in the 60s, some places never saw it, some places saw most of it. I think the same thing is in effect. Some places are seeing most of the uptick, other places aren’t seeing any of it.

    2. No because you’re applying the logic incorrectly.

      Under definition A, the rate was X.
      Under wider definition B, the rate should have been X + Y.
      If at time 2, the rate was less than X, by definition it also would have been less than X + Y.

      (For the math purists, not that neither X nor Y can be negative in this scenario.)

  3. I’m not sure I totally understand this.

    Is there a set of categories under “sexual assault”, rape being one of them, and they miscategorized a third of what would be rape under federal definition as some type of sexual assault other than rape? Or is this a situation where “rape” is the only category and these other assaults were simply labeled “assault”?

    Because having different categories for “rape with object”, “rape of vagina with penis”, “forcible sodomy”, “forcible sodomy with object”, “forcible oral sex”, etc. is very different from “didn’t count them at all”, or “pushed them all out of the sex crime category”.

    1. I’m a little confused on this as well, but I’m not super knowledgeable about where the dividing line between “sexual assault” and “rape” is.

      1. Back in the olden days, putting your pecker in her hoo-ha without her say-so was rape.

        Waving your willie in her face, grabbing her hoo-ha or other unwanted sexual conduct was sexual assault. I always thought of rape as a subset of the category of sexual assault.

        But maybe I was wrong. Or maybe I’m speaking in terms of common definitions as opposed to legal definitions. (under this category think of the confusion between assault and battery, depending on jurisdiction)

      2. According to the article they are classified and investigated as “criminal sexual activity”

  4. Also not clear from the article, how is the broader federal definition “more favorable” to victims than the older definition? I get that more crimes will be counted in the rape category, but how does this benefit victims?

    Are we mixing apples and oranges here? (crime statistics vs. prosecutions and the penalties associated with violations of a particularly law)

    1. I get that more crimes will be counted in the rape category, but how does this benefit victims?

      Presumably because your attacker goes away for longer when caught means society is safer because more sexual assaulters are now defined as rapers?

      Something something increasing jail population something reform. I’m not saying creating the new definition is bad, I just don’t quite know what to make of it.

      1. But this is about “crime reporting”, not about prosecutions, what statute they were prosecuted under, the sentences they received, etc. Hence my query.

        Maybe there is a benefit – added federal funding, propaganda for additional legislation, etc.? I can guess, but I don’t know. I was hoping the author would addend his brief article with a few more details explaining these phrases.

        This is actually a subject of some interest. I’ve done a lot of report design in my day, and crime stats and police transparency are important to me. So understanding what the deal is and why it is important would be nice. (as opposed to “they didn’t do it like the feds do, so it is bad”)

  5. ‘In 2012, the Department of Justice expanded the definition of forcible rape to cover any “penetration, no matter how slight, of the vagina or anus with any body part or object, or oral penetration by a sex organ of another person, without the consent of the victim.” … The new definition is more favorable to victims of all genders and assault situations. ‘

    Sounds like it totally excludes female on male rape by intercourse or oral sex.

    “Feminism is about equality”

  6. So this means that 98% of all college women have been the victim of sexual assault.

    /Prog Math

  7. The NYPD failed to overreport rape by continuing to count only actual rapes.

    FIFY

  8. >>>Rape cases have gone underreported in New York City because

    il Sindaco wanted it that way.

  9. […] Click here to view original story: The NYPD Underreported Rape Due to an Outdated Definition of the … […]

  10. New Blazing Saddles

    Qualifications?
    rape, murder, arson, criminal sexual activity

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