Liana Van Nostrand, ‘16
Each week the New York Police Department (NYPD) deletes the crime data from the previous week, making it difficult for the public to identify crime trends and evaluate the effectiveness of NYPD initiatives. Josh Waldman (Y2) is out to change that. Last June, he launched the website NYC Shootings (NYCshootings.com), where he preserves weekly crime reports that would otherwise disappear from the internet. According to Waldman, the site has received positive reviews both inside and outside the BHSEC community.
Waldman conceived of NYC Shootings while working in Councilman Jumaane Williams’ office over the summer of 2014. His work in the councilman’s office prompted an interest in the effects of crime, especially shootings in the city. After mulling over the idea for many months, it took Waldman only a single month to construct the site even though he did not have any programming experience. The sleek site has each week’s crime report, an archive of articles on shootings, and a spreadsheet constructed by Waldman that analyzes the NYPD’s data.
He was motivated to start the site because he believes the NYPD’s data should be available for “greater public scrutiny.” On the municipal level, Waldman aims to improve the city by increasing transparency. NYC Shootings also contributes to recent national dialogues on police reform. As Waldman said, “police accountability is more than them not committing abuse, but accountability on the actual success of their programs.”
Waldman’s site has been featured twice in the New York Daily News. In a letter to the editor that was published in the New York Daily News’ “Voice of the People” section among other letters from readers on crime and policing, Waldman argued that the effects of NYPD practices like the controversial stopandfrisk and programs like “Summer All Out” need to be considered with “a full analysis of the very data the NYPD takes down each week.” Emphasizing the need for hard data to evaluate NYPD programs, Waldman succinctly made the case for greater transparency and reform of how crime data is disseminated.
The New York Daily News later published an article about Waldman’s website within the context of the NYPD’s previous status as a pioneer of transparency. The article included a glowing review of NYC Shootings, noting that “right now [NYC Shootings] offers a far more useful presentation and archive of NYPD data than the NYPD itself — a sign of the work to be done.”
There is also more work to be done by Waldman. As he balances the heavy workload of any BHSEC student, he also updates the site every few days and responds to press inquiries. He plans to continue the website until the launch of CompStat 2.0, an improved version of the crime data reporting system used by the NYPD that is currently under development. Waldman hopes that CompStat 2.0 will permanently post crime data and make NYC Shootings obsolete. What’s next for this selfproclaimed “kid with a laptop”? While Waldman does not have any concrete plans for more projects, he is certain that any future projects will combine statistics and advocacy.