Crime Statistics, Again
November 2, 2001
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Today's New York Times carries a front-page news article under the headline, "Police Overtime Since Attack Creates Retirement Incentive." The story goes on at great length about the "problem" of high overtime expenditures at the police department since September 11 and the incentive that gives officers to retire with an unusually high basis for their pensions.
It's by no means clear that retirements in the police department are a "problem." After all, the Times has been whining for years about the lack of racial diversity in the department. A new group of recruits would be less experienced, but it also might be more energetic, more representative of the city's changing population, and more likely to meet new, higher educational standards while working for lower pay. Smartertimes.com doesn't much buy into the Times's complaints about the current New York Police force, but for a newspaper that has been complaining for years about all the old white guys on the force to now all of a sudden raise an alarm about the "problem" of a wave of retirements is pretty rich.
The really amazing thing about today's Times article, though, is that while it dwells at great length on the personnel and budget implications of the police overtime, it doesn't say a thing about the effect that the additional officer hours have had on crime.
In fact, as Smartertimes.com noted on October 28, crime complaint statistics are down dramatically in New York since September 11. The most recent week's statistics are also down. As Smartertimes.com said October 28, it is possible that the decline is because even criminals were sufficiently shaken by the events of September 11 to take a momentary pause. It is possible the decline is because the enhanced civic feeling in the wake of the attack has encouraged law-abiding citizens to do more than they would have before in terms of reporting suspicious behavior and intervening to prevent criminal behavior. It is also possible that the decline in tourism means there are fewer targets for criminals. But it's also possible that all of this police overtime, in addition to having an effect on the city budget and the retirement plans of police officers, has helped reduce crime.
The Times and other critics of the NYPD have gotten a lot of mileage the past eight years from the theory that the drop in crime is the result of the booming economy, and that policing has had nothing to do with it. But since September 11, the New York economy has been cratering, and the crime rate is still falling. A cynic might think that a reason the Times has been so reluctant to report these facts is that it undermines the newspaper's theory that crime is driven by poverty.
Notoriety: An article in the metro section of today's New York Times reports that Bill Clinton has endorsed Mark Green for mayor. The Times reports, "In Harlem, Mr. Green had some distractions of his own competing with the notoriety of the man he was with. A small crowd afforded Mr. Clinton his customary rock star welcome of shouts, screams, whistles and applause." Here's what the Times stylebook has to say about "notoriety": "Means more than just fame. Use it only to mean 'unfavorable repute.'" It may be accurate to speak of Mr. Clinton's notoriety, but not when it is followed by talk of a "rock star welcome" and "applause," unless the Times is somehow trying to cast aspersions on the residents of Harlem.
Objectivity: An article in the business section of today's New York Times reports on the hiring of Geraldo Rivera by Fox News. The Times reports that Mr. Rivera's hawkish position on the war against "terrorists" is "something that could leave him open to questions about his objectivity." The Times doesn't bother to actually find anyone who is raising these questions. Does reporting on the war against terrorists even call for "objectivity"? If the Times gave any credence to the idea that expressing an opinion beforehand was inconsistent with providing fair and accurate news coverage, it shouldn't have elevated its editorial page editor to executive editor of the newspaper. Mr. Rivera, just like the new Times editor, should be judged by his news report, not the opinions he expresses outside the news report.
Note: Beginning this month, Smartertimes.com will be running some non-New York Times-related original material, much of it about New York City.
Ice Cream Scoop: BROOKLYN -- After months of preparation and years of wrangling with the landmarks commission, ice cream maker Mark Thompson was scheduled to open a new ice cream parlor in the shadow of the Brooklyn Bridge here on September 12.
The terrorist attack intervened, and Mr. Thompson spent the weeks after September 11 giving away ice cream to firehouses and rescue workers.
But the Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory has now opened its doors to paying customers, selling ice cream that is so good that it is almost enough to distract customers entirely from the broken but still beautiful skyline that can be seen through the ice cream store's window.
The ice cream store itself is set in an old firehouse at the foot of Old Fulton Street, between the River Cafe and the Bargemusic barge. Tin ceilings and walls and an old-fashioned record player lend a whiff of the past to what used to be the firefighters' galley. But what is really remarkable is the ice cream, which has a wonderful creamy texture and an intense, farm-fresh taste.
The ice cream is unusual because it is egg-free. "My theory on ice cream is there's three main ingredients -- cream, milk and sugar," Mr. Thompson says. In commercial ice cream, even superpremium pints, eggs are often added as a thickener to make ice cream in a European, custard style. But the egg-free ice cream made at the Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory feels a bit lighter on the tongue.
The other unusual factor is the ingredients. The peaches in the peaches and cream flavor were picked at their peak of ripeness and come from a 30-acre farm in Pennsylvania owned by a friend of Mr. Thompson's. The vanilla comes from Nielsen-Massey, a firm that Mr. Thompson says is to vanilla beans what Peter Luger is to steak. The cream comes from a variety of sources in New Hampshire and Vermont, though Upstate New York is also a possible source. "You're getting into a different season now, and cows are eating different things, and it actually affects the flavor of the ice cream," Mr. Thompson said.
For all the fancy ingredients, the Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory's prices are still on the low end for a high-end New York ice cream purveyor. A small cone is $2.50, and a kiddie cone can be had for 95 cents. A sundae topped with a dulce-de-leche-like caramel sauce, a dollop of cloud-like whipped cream, and a strawberry in the place of the standard cherry is $3.95.
The place is already drawing customers who live in Dumbo, Fort Greene and Brooklyn Heights, where longtime ice cream parlor Peter's on Atlantic Avenue closed in the past year. But with the nearby River Cafe (which owns the Brooklyn Ice Cream factory) and Grimaldi's pizza (a perennial Zagat's pick for best of New York) already drawing Manhattan residents with sophisticated palates to the site of the Fulton Ferry landing, it's only a matter of time before the Brooklyn Ice Cream factory becomes a destination dessert stop.
For now, Mr. Thompson, who is 41 and worked 18 years at the Water Club, on the other side of the East River, isn't seeking a big burst of opening-related publicity. He says, "We're trying to let the ice cream speak for itself."
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