NYPD bans, then limits access to crime reporters

December 11, 2013 Heather Chin
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As of December 4, the New York City Police Department’s (NYPD) has cracked down on allowing members of the media to have access to crime reports at neighborhood police precincts citywide, instead telling reporters to contact the Deputy Commissioner of Public Information (DCPI), centrally located at One Police Plaza in Manhattan, for all inquiries.

The NYPD’s foremost concern on the matter was to prevent the release of “confidential information that could jeopardize the safety of a witness or compromise an ongoing investigation,” according to DCPI spokesperson John McCarthy in an email.

This statement, which was made in an email response to CUNY Graduate School of Journalism Dean Stephen B. Shepard, was not much different than the NYPD’s earlier explanation for the citywide ban.

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The December 4 ban was not formally announced, but was relayed to community reporters who showed up to their respective police precincts in Brooklyn and Manhattan only to be told that the police officers were no longer allowed to grant access.

Some officers gave no reason, simply stating that the order had been given and they would comply until further notice. Others explained that the NYPD wanted to address the fact that some precincts were more forthcoming with crime reports than others; the new policy would reduce the number of requests made to those precincts that don’t regularly share crime reports.

Weekly crime reports are the source material used by reporters to compile police blotters. The reports typically include information (e.g. time, date, location, a summary of the incident report, list of stolen property, suspect description, etc.) regarding cases of felony assault, robbery, burglary, grand larceny and grand larceny auto.

Details surrounding high-profile incidents, sex crimes, crimes involving minors and other cases of a sensitive nature have always only been available to reporters via an email or phone request to DCPI; direct access to community-level crime reports and statistics, often with private information of suspects and victims redacted, was available according to the discretion of local police precincts.

But, as of December 9, it appeared that the policy was being altered again.

According to The Nabe, a news blog covering Fort Greene and Clinton Hill, the NYPD announced on Monday, December 9, that access to the reports—which are the source material for newspaper police blotters—would be restored on a limited, individual-request-to-DCPI basis.

Here in southern Brooklyn, the 68th Precinct told this paper that crime reports will continue to be made available to reporters—but in a group setting where a police officer reads the information aloud.

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