A Different Kind of Whistleblower: Social Distancing Violation Whistleblowing in NYC

Economic Consulting | Public Sector

May 21, 2020

New York City

Whistleblowers are often the genesis of an internal investigation when they report a problem such as accounting fraud or potential violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act to the Company’s hotline or directly to the Securities and Exchange Commission. In New York City, we are seeing a new kind of whistleblower.

Mayor Bill de Blasio has asked New Yorkers en masse to report their neighbors for violations of social distancing guidelines. The Mayor has requested Gothamites send in photos and texts of social distancing violations to the City 311 service, comparing the current crisis to “wartime,” and emphasizing that New York is fighting an invisible enemy.

In war times, in a time when people’s lives are threatened…I’m sorry, this is not snitching, this is saving lives.1

The Mayor’s request had us wondering how many New Yorkers have answered his call and which neighborhoods in the city are most likely to file a complaint.

Analysis & Findings

We obtained the 311 data from NYC OpenData2 and extracted the “social distancing” complaints. This yielded 13,632 complaints from March 29 to April 18, 2020, across the five boroughs. The borough with the highest number of complaints was Brooklyn, followed by Manhattan, with Staten Island being far in the rear. Given the relative density of Brooklyn and Manhattan, as compared to Staten Island, this is not all that surprising.


1: @NYCMayor (Mayor Bill de Blasio) April 28, 2020 – 6:02AM https://twitter.com/NYCMayor/status/1252220472407851009

2: https://opendata.cityofnewyork.us/

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