NY cops 'sorry' for visiting couple's house 50 times
A glitch in computer records led NYC officers to the wrong house often
NEW YORK — Cheesecake in hand, the police commissioner personally apologized Friday for the 50 or so mistaken, door-pounding visits that police have made to the home of a bewildered elderly Brooklyn couple in the past eight years.
It seems a glitch in computer records had led them over and over to Walter and Rose Martin's modest home in the Marine Park neighborhood, about 7 miles southeast of the Brooklyn Bridge.
The most recent intrusion came Tuesday, with officers pounding on both the front and back doors, yelling "Police, open up!"
On Thursday, detectives from the NYPD's Identity Theft Squad went to see the Martins again - this time to apologize. "And we wanted to be sure perps weren't using that address for identity theft," NYPD Deputy Commissioner Paul Browne told The Associated Press on Friday.
The detectives told 82-year-old Rose and 83-year-old Walter that Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly had ordered them to solve the problem, which started eight years ago and was first reported this week in the New York Daily News.
To bring home the sincerity of the NYPD's contrition, Kelly showed up Friday at the Martin's house with a gift: New York cheesecake.
The commissioner rolled into the quiet Brooklyn neighborhood at midday, stopping in front of the Martins' small, neatly kept house, a large American flag fluttering by the front door.
Kelly "went to apologize - and to explain," Browne said. "They expressed appreciation that the police commissioner came and they showed him pictures of their grandchildren."
The snafu started in 2002, when police used the Brooklyn address as part of what Browne called "random material" to test an automated computer system that tracks crime complaints and records of other internal police information. Before that, the work was done manually.
The couple first complained about the harrowing police visits in 2007, when Rose Martin wrote a letter to Kelly. "And we identified the problem then," Browne said. "It was a mistake by the police department."
Police wiped the Martins' address from the system.
Or so they thought, Browne said. Instead, the visits continued, and some computer files bearing the Martins' address stayed in the system.
"We thought all the test data had been purged, but apparently it had not," Browne said. "The Martins' address ended up migrating to various complaint forms and warrant information."
Most of the visits came in 2006 and 2007, he said. After the latest, "We realized we still had a problem and went back and further purged the records," the deputy commissioner conceded.
To make sure it will never happen again, Browne said the address has been flagged with alerts, so if there's any record indicating officers should question the Martins, "they're barred from doing it."
Rose Martin has asked the department to write her an official letter to that effect.
"It seems like too simple a correction for something that has been going on for eight years," she told the New York Daily News, which first reported the story.
"I'm not feeling well today," she told the AP after the commissioner's visit, adding that neither she nor her husband could comment.
But they did their best to carry on their business. Walter Martin left the house briefly to walk the dog, with a young man helping him.
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