What does NYC's Stop-And-Frisk achieve? / by Tom Oliver Payne


It seems to me that police command and control techniques are going too far in certain cities. Despite widespread condemnation, NYC mayor Michael Bloomberg has strongly defended the NYPD's stop-and frisk program

Bloomberg says that stop-and-frisk has helped the city to reach historically low levels in crime, citing that murders had halved between 1990 and 2011. But the murder drop that Bloomberg cited happened before he took office in 2001, and before the huge increases in stop-and-frisks took place. The year before Bloomberg took office there were 649 murders in NYC compared to 2000+ murders annually in the 1980s.

While the figure has decreased slightly to 536 in 2011, it seems a far stretch to suggest that this has anything to with the policy.

Surely, with an increase of 524,873 stop-and-frisks between 2003 and 2011 Bloomberg's correlation seems a little twisted. And maybe, just maybe, the decreasing murder rate can be attributed to other factors way out of the control of any NYPD policy (eg. changing education levels, a changing demographic, lifestyle changes, etc.).

No research has ever proven the effectiveness of the NYC stop-and-frisk program, guns are found in less than 0.2% of stops ("an unbelievably poor rare yield rate for such an intrusive, wasteful and humiliating police action" - NYCLU) and the frisks are incredibly discriminatory (90% of those stopped are black and Latino).

So what is stop-and-frisk actually achieving?

Well, it seems to me that it's nothing positive: courtroom clashes over stop cases are increasing, concerns of racial profiling have once again become a strong political topic and the tensions between communities and the local police are growing (see youtube film above).

Surely, there is something wrong with frisking someone on the basis of their appearance? How could you feel comfortable in your community if you're repeatedly frisked by the cops (particularly when done aggressively)? (Check this clip).

Politically, it would be stupid for Bloomberg to backpedal on this policy. So to justify his continued support for stop-and-frisk, he has merely quoted some murder statistics that are likely unrelated to any policing approach.

In reality, this program is probably doing far more harm than good. Hopefully the current debate will see decisions being made based on intelligent discussion and research into the policy, instead of politically motivated and poorly cited statistics.

Images courtesy TheNYPost.