Getting information from the New York Police Department about crimes just got harder.
According to a report on the news website DNAInfo New York, the NYPD sent a note out to all 77 precincts telling them to deny journalists access to information about crimes taking place in their neighborhoods. The note was reportedly sent to borough commanders and then disseminated to the precincts. Journalists now have to direct all inquiries to the deputy commissioner for public information (DCPI).
The DCPI usually provides information on major crimes like sexual assault and murder and doesn’t focus on hyper-local lower-level crimes. With the DCPI fielding a significant amount of requests daily, there’s no telling how long journalists will now have to wait to report on local crimes.
Christopher Dunn, an associate legal director at the New York Civil Liberties Union, told the AmNews that he hopes the policy undergoes a change when Bill de Blasio takes the mayoral oath next month.
“This is just another sign of the current NYPD’s hostility to public accountability,” said Dunn in an email statement to the AmNews. “Starting in January, we expect the department to take a dramatically different approach to openness, one that will benefit not only local newspapers, but the press and public in general.”
The AmNews attempted to contact the 28th Precinct—which is down the street from the AmNews offices—regarding their crime logs. No one picked up the call at the community affairs department and it went to voicemail. When the AmNews called again and requested an operator, the operator put us on hold for 10 minutes and eventually directed us to community affairs … where it went to voicemail.
“I’m trying to figure out who to direct you to,” said the operator five minutes into the call.
When asked why the precinct logs were no longer available, the NYPD pointed to their patrol guide.
“The New York City Police Department’s Patrol Guide clearly states that all media requests shall occur through the Office of the Deputy Commissioner, Public Information,” said NYPD Deputy Commissioner John McCarthy in an email to the AmNews. “Local crime information is available to media and distributed through DCPI, which is operational 24/7 to facilitate press inquiries from the media. This procedure has been in place for decades.”
McCarthy also stated that the complainant reports contain confidential information that “could jeopardize the safety of a witness or compromise an ongoing investigation” and said that it’s essential that all media requests go through DCPI to “safeguard ongoing investigations and the identity of victims of crimes and other information,” like the identities of children taken into custody, neglected or abused children, victims of sex crimes, locations of occurrences of sexual assault if the location is the victim’s or perpetrator’s residence, confidential witnesses and investigations and arrests that overlap into other agencies, bureaus or jurisdictions.