Does the New York City Police Department's stop-and-frisk policy deter crime?
The latest statistics from police precincts show that violent crime, such as assaults, rapes and murders, increased earlier this year as the department was pulling back on its stop-and-frisk activity. But NYPD officials and other experts say the increase could be due to other factors.
"There are too many variables to make a definitive determination," NYPD spokesman Paul Browne said of the latest figures.
A review of detailed stop-and-frisk reports submitted by the NYPD to the City Council found that in some precincts police performed 50 percent fewer stop and frisks in the second quarter of this year compared with the first quarter.
Of the 20 precincts experiencing the greatest percentage increase in felonies this year compared with 2011, nearly all saw the number of stop and frisks drop, with decreases ranging from 1 to 54 percent, the police data showed.
Two precincts saw no change in the number of stop and frisks, while two had increases of up to 9 percent, according to the quarterly data.
Over the same period, the 75th Precinct, in the high crime East New York area, saw stop and frisks drop 50 percent. Serious felonies, meanwhile, are up nearly 10 percent there compared with last year.
Police have said that stop, question and frisk activity can deter crime and that the effect may linger long after police appear in a neighborhood.
Overall crime in the city was up 4.06 percent in the second quarter over the same period in 2011.
The NYPD acknowledged a few weeks ago that its controversial stop-and-frisk activity had dropped off by 34 percent between the first and second quarters of 2012 but didn't publicly release precinct data.
Officials said the dip occurred after the NYPD reduced officers in high-crime impact zones and increased command supervision.
A high-ranking NYPD commander who didn't want to be identified said it's hard to draw short-term conclusions about the effect of fewer stop and frisks, noting that a large percentage change in crime reports could be the result of an anomaly in an earlier period.
A particular precinct could have had a big increase "because of low numbers last year," the commander noted.
Police officials point out that precincts with the sharpest drops in serious crimes also had a drop in stop-and-frisk activity. Not all precincts have the same volume of crime -- the 61st Precinct in south Brooklyn has had 960 serious felonies so far this year compared with 2,167 in the 75th Precinct.
"Whatever stop and frisk is doing it is not driving down crime," he said.
Eugene O'Donnell, a professor of law and police science at John Jay College, said the latest statistics on stop-and-frisk raised questions about whether criminals were becoming more brazen.
"For my mind it raises the question which every cop knows in his soul: When cops pull back, the bad guys are the first to know," he said. "I do think bad guys figure it out."
Police officials say they make stops based on crime reports and suspicious activity. But critics contend that the NYPD has been profiling by stopping more blacks and Hispanics than whites.
A 2008 federal class-action lawsuit is challenging the constitutionality of NYPD stop-and-frisk activity and is in the discovery stage.