New Neighbors and the Over-Policing of Communities of Color
An Analysis of NYPD-Referred 311 Complaints in New York City

 


 

Identifying Quality-of-life Complaints Referred to the NYPD

Data on 311 complaints were downloaded from the NYC Open Data website. For each year considered in the analysis (ranging from 2011 to 2017), we only considered complaints that met the following criteria:

  • Listed NYPD as the responding agency.
  • Were classified with any of the following values for the complaint type and descriptor variables. These complaint-descriptor pairings were intended to capture incidents of neighbors complaining about other neighbors while excluding complaints about businesses.

 

  Complaint Type

  Descriptor

  “Bike/Roller/Skate Chronic”

 –

  “Disorderly Youth”

 –

  “Drinking”

  Excluding “After Hours - Licensed Est”     and "Underage - Licensed Est"

  "Noise - House of Worship"

  –

  "Noise - Park" 

  –

  "Noise - Residential"

  –

  "Noise - Street/Sidewalk"  

  –

  "Noise - Vehicle"

  Only "Car/Truck Music"

  "Non-Emergency Police Matter"

  Excluding "Ticket Scalping"

  "Drug Activity"

  –

  “Graffiti”

  –

  “Illegal Fireworks”

  –

The complaints that meet the above criteria are referred to as quality-of-life-complaints referred to the NYPD.

Determining Complaint Location

Latitude and longitude variables were used to identify the census tract where the complaint occurred, described below in the Data Aggregation sub-section.

Determining Complaint Resolutions

The resolution description variable was used to identify complaints that ended in a summons or an arrest based on the following resolution descriptions:

  • “The Police Department issued a summons in response to the complaint.”
  • “The Police Department made an arrest in response to the complaint.”

In order to determine the share of complaints that directly resulted in a police response, we counted the following resolution descriptions as indicative of a police response. This almost certainly results in an underestimate of the share of complaints that the police responded to, as some of the responses that were not counted may have eventually led to a police response that cannot be confirmed based on the resolution description provided.

The Police Department issued a summons in response to the complaint.

Counted

The Police Department made an arrest in response to the complaint.

Counted

The Police Department responded and upon arrival those responsible for the condition were gone.

Counted

The Police Department responded to the complaint and a report was prepared.

Counted

The Police Department responded to the complaint and determined that police action was not necessary.

Counted

The Police Department responded to the complaint and took action to fix the condition.

Counted

The Police Department responded to the complaint and with the information available observed no evidence of the violation at that time.

Counted

The Police Department responded to the complaint but officers were unable to gain entry into the premises.

Counted

The Police Department reviewed your complaint and provided additional information below.

Not counted

This complaint does not fall under the Police Department's jurisdiction.

Not counted

Your complaint has been forwarded to the New York Police Department for a non-emergency response. 311 will have additional information in 8 hours. Please note your service request number for future reference.

Not counted

Your complaint has been received by the Police Department and additional information will be available later.

Not counted

Your complaint has been received by the Police Department and it has been determined that a long-term investigation may be necessary.  Additional information will be available at the conclusion of the investigation.

Not counted

Your request can not be processed at this time because of insufficient contact information. Please create a new Service Request on NYC.gov and provide more detailed contact information.

Not counted

 

 


 

Housing Data

Certificates of Occupancy

Data on Certificates of Occupancy (CO) granted by the Department of Buildings was downloaded from the NYC Open Data website. To determine the number of new units completed, the proposed occupancy variable was used only for units that were issued Final Certificates of Occupancy. If proposed occupancy was not reported, existing occupancy was used instead. The year was based on the date the certificate was issued.

This information was used to designated census tracts as high- or low-housing development tracts. Tracts were designated as high-housing development tracts if the number of new units based on final COs issued between 2014 and 2017 exceeded 1 percent of the 2013 tract-wide population.

Latitude and longitude variables were used to identify the census tract where the building was located, as described below in the Data Aggregation sub-section.


Affordable Housing

Data on affordable housing projects by building provided by the Department of Housing Preservation and Development was downloaded from the NYC Open Data website. Latitude and longitude variables were used to identify the census tract where the development occurred, as described below in the Data Aggregation sub-section.

 

 


 

American Community Survey

Demographic data for census tracts, including total population, population for different racial/ethnic groups, and median household income, was obtained from the American Community Survey (ACS) 5-year samples for 2011 through 2016, accessed through IPUMS USA. Because the 2017 ACS was not yet available at the time this analysis was conducted, any figures reported for 2017 complaint rates are based on the 2016 5-year ACS.

 


 

Tract-level Analysis

Data Aggregation

Information from the data sources described above was aggregated to the census tract level using CARTO’s online mapping tools. For each data source, longitude and latitude variables were used to identify the location (of the complaint, summons, arrest, certificate of occupancy, or affordable housing development). Shape files with information on census tract boundaries were obtained from the New York City Department of Planning website. CARTO’s spatial aggregation tools were then used to compute the number of complaints, for example, that occurred in each census tract. Tract-level figures for complaint, summons, and arrest rates were computed as the total number of complaints occurring in a given tract divided by the tract-wide population for the corresponding year.


Tract Sample Selection

Our geographic analysis covers 2,104 census tracts observed in the 311 complaint data from 2011 through 2017. This excludes 61 tracts that either had no residential population in 2016 or started with less than 100 residents in 2011 (including tracts coinciding with city parks).

 


 

Unheard Third Survey

The Unheard Third is an annual scientific survey, begun in 2002, that tracks the hardships of New York City's low-income population and their views on what would help them get ahead. The Unheard Third also surveys middle- and higher-income New Yorkers to see how their experiences and views line up with or diverge from those of low-income residents, and to provide a representative sample of all Ner York residents ages 18 and up.

Low-income residents are defined as those with household incomes at or below 200% of the federal poverty level. This includes the poor and the near-poor between 100% and 200% of poverty. In 2018, the federal poverty guideline for a family of four was $25,100.

 

How the Survey Was Conducted

The Community Service Society designed this survey in collaboration with Lake Research Partners, who administered the survey by phone using professional interviewers. The survey was conducted from July 11 to August 13, 2018.

The survey reached a total of 1,775 New York City residents, ages 18 or older, divided into two samples:   

1,138 low-income residents (up to 200% of federal poverty standards, or FPL) comprise the first sample, including:

  • 578 poor respondents, from households earning at or below 100% FPL
  • 560 near-poor respondents, from households earning 101% - 200% FPL 

637 moderate- and higher-income residents (above 200% FPL) comprise the second sample, including:

  • 437 moderate-income respondents, from households earning 201% - 400% FPL
  • 200 higher-income respondents, from households earning above 400% FPL 

The 2018 survey also included an oversample of 954 cell phone interviews among adult residents up to 400% FPL and an oversample of 100 retail workers who only heard questions C1-7, 28-56, 59-60, and 72-103. Telephone numbers for the low-income sample were drawn using random digit dial (RDD) among exchanges in census tracts with an average annual income of no more than $40,840. Telephone numbers for the higher-income sample were drawn using RDD in exchanges in the remaining census tracts. The data were weighted by income level, gender, region, age, party identification, education, immigrant status, and race in order to ensure that it accurately reflects the demographic configuration of these populations. Interviews were conducted in English, Spanish, and Chinese.

In interpreting survey results, all sample surveys are subject to possible sampling error; that is, the results of a survey may differ from those which would be obtained if the entire population were interviewed. The size of the sampling error depends on both the total number of respondents in the survey and the percentage distribution of responses to a particular question. The margin of error for the low-income component is 2.9 percentage points.

 

Unheard Third Questions Analyzed in this Report

QUESTION: In the past year, did you have any encounters in New York City with a police officer that you did not seek out? [IF YES] Did any of these encounters make you feel unsafe and worried about what would happen to you, or did these encounters make you feel safe and secure that you were going to be okay?

 

1. Yes - Made me feel unsafe and worried about what would happen to me

2. Yes - Made me feel safe and secure that I was going to be OK

3. No

4. (don’t know/refused)

 

 

QUESTION: In the past year, have you ever avoided contacting the police? [IF YES] Did you avoid contacting them because they made you feel less safe, or was there a different reason you avoided contacting them?

 

1. Yes – felt less safe

2. Yes – other reason

3. No

4. (don’t know/refused)

 

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