March 1, 2014

The New and Improved Stop and Frisk

Anthony Delmundo/New York Daily News

Contrary to popular belief, the NYPD's Stop and Frisk program was not found to be facially unconstitutional. The problem was the way the NYPD elected to employ it. By deliberately stopping and frisking people solely because they are black males, or happen to live in certain areas, and so forth, all without a proper legal basis for the stop/frisk, the NYPD was engaging in racial profiling, and that is unconstitutional. It was also highly inefficient. But the numbers for the last quarter of 2013 indicate that the NYPD has revised its use of Stop and Frisk, and it is now much more effective. That is good news.

According to an article in today's Daily News, statistics for the last quarter of 2013 show that NYPD officers made 12,495 stops between October and December. That may seem like a lot, but it is actually down 86% from the 89,620 stops made during the same time period in 2012. At the same time, 16% of the 4th quarter 2013 stops resulted in an arrest. The year before the arrest rate was only 10%.

The data (or at least the data immediately available to us) is far too incomplete to reach any particular conclusions. But at first glance, two things appear obvious: one is that the cops are now making higher quality stops, meaning more of these stops are are occurring only when there is actually some factual basis to support the action, and that, as a consequence, a greater percentage of the stops are turning up criminal conduct.

Equally good news is that murders in NYC during 2014 are, so far, running 21% behind last year's rate. Some credit may have to be given to the brutal winter we have had for the past two months, but the reduction suggests something else as well.

The NYPD's new emphasis on quality over quantity in terms of Stop and Frisk has been a long time coming, and the improved success rate helps put the lie to the notion that eliminating racial profiling will trigger an immediate criminal onslaught throughout the city. That racist argument, offered up by apologists for the Bloomberg/Kelly regime, was factually and rationally devoid of merit; as the objective evidence is now starting to confirm.


  1. From a citizen's point of view, the stop and frisk practices of the previous administration kept violent crime down because it deterred the thugs from carrying their weapons on the street. The reason the stops and frisks did not result in many arrests was because the practice prevented crime from occurring in the first place. You cannot arrest someone for gun possession when the criminal was so scared he left his gun at home.

  2. Talk about turning lemons into lemonade. I don't think you can say Stop and Frisk worked as designed; the reason so few arrests flowed from Stop and Frisk is because it was applied indiscriminately, often without any reason to expect that a weapon would be found. Indeed, given the frequency with which officers failed to complete the 250 forms, the percentage of successful stops was probably significantly lower than reported.

    But even if random stops of large blocs of people could reduce crime, it does so at the expense of basic constitutional safeguards and protections from an overly intrusive government. There are many things government could do that would lower the crime rate, but they should not be acceptable to a society that values individual liberty.

  3. Screw individual liberty. I don't want to be mugged.