NYC’s CompStat System Enters a New Phase

Debate continues about whether the CompStat police management system is responsible for New York City’s crime decline since 1994. Now a version called NeighborhoodStat represents its next phase.

New York City’s CompStat police management system was created in 1994. Captains, lieutenants, and other unit heads from the boroughs travel to police headquarters and are quizzed, in granular detail, about crime trends and plans to combat them. The police brass asking the questions is armed with reams of statistics, which are analyzed and mapped and projected onto multiple screens, New York magazine reports. No New York invention, arguably, has saved more lives in the past 24 years. CompStat has helped drive down the city’s crime rates to historic lows and revolutionized policing around the world: Los Angeles, London, and Paris use a form of CompStat. Baltimore has CitiStat; New Orleans has BlightStat. Burlington, Vt., runs CommunityStat, to battle the opioid epidemic.

CompStat has detractors, who say it helped fuel the stop, question, and frisk harassment of hundreds of thousands of black and brown New Yorkers. There is debate on how much credit CompStat deserves for the crime decline. Cities including Houston and Phoenix saw similar declines, crediting economic development and community policing. “Two decades of an expanding economy, and mass incarceration, have contributed the most to the crime drop,” says criminologist Richard Rosenfeld of the University of Missouri St. Louis. “Smarter policing … has contributed in a number of places, including New York City. But we don’t know how much.” CompStat  is being retooled to try to keep crime low while incorporating New Yorkers’ feelings about their police department. “The urgency now is to develop a new model to keep violence low,” says sociologist Patrick Sharkey of New York University. He is encouraged by CompStat’s latest local spinoff. “Under the mayor’s office of criminal justice, NeighborhoodStat brings in the police department, the housing authority, sanitation, community groups, with the same model as CompStat — putting data on the big screen and figuring out who needs to step up,” Sharkey says. “It’s the next stage of CompStat, and maybe the most important shift in policing.”