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Editorial: Nassau crime stats through a political lens

The Nassau Police Sixth Precinct in Manhasset. (April

The Nassau Police Sixth Precinct in Manhasset. (April 16, 2013) Credit: Howard Schnapp

At a news conference Wednesday, the head of the Police Benevolent Association said crime in Nassau County has surged over the past three months and he believes the controversial merging of several precincts to save money is behind the scary spike.

The Nassau County Police Department responded that crime is actually down a bit in January through March, it's impossible to draw meaningful conclusions on crime trends from such a short window, and the precinct mergers have been financial and operational successes.

It seems the PBA is using the crime statistics as a political football, and it's a ball full of hot air.

The three-month period is so short, and the changes in the crime numbers being debated are so statistically insignificant, that it would be senseless to argue crime is either up or down at this point.

The category of "major crimes" increased in two of the merged precincts, but fell just as much in a third merged precinct. Meanwhile, major crimes jumped more in an unmerged precinct than in any other place. To argue both that crime is up and that the increase is due to a reorganization of precincts, while the number of cops on patrol has not been reduced at all, is pure politics.

The offensive comes as the plan to merge the Seventh and First precincts is being reconsidered because of post-Sandy concerns about flooding that hindered access. That's worth revisiting. But what shouldn't drive the conversation are scare tactics by the union to incite residents into demanding more cops and returning to the old precinct alignment.