The number of NYPD stop-and-frisk incidents plummeted by more than 53 percent in the first half of 2013 compared with a year earlier, while the percentage of people of minority descent who were approached by police in those encounters stayed close to the historic average of about 86 percent, according the latest data made available to Newsday late Tuesday.
According to the latest compilation of statistics, the total number of stop and frisks reported by police amounted to 157,876 from Jan. 1 to June 30, compared with 337,954 during the same period of 2012, the data show. For the second quarter of this year, police reported 58,088 stops, compared with 133,934 in 2012, officials said.
The new numbers represent the fourth decline in the last five quarters and come at a time when the NYPD has been battling in the courts and in the political arena about the steady increase in stops during the Bloomberg administration and their impact on black and Hispanic men.
"It is good news the numbers are down," said Donna Lieberman, executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union. In the face of the decrease in stops, Lieberman noted that there was no indication of a crime wave as City Hall has feared.
Stops reached almost 700,000 in 2011, the most active year, and Bloomberg and police Commissioner Ray Kelly contend they are lawfully done and are a key reason why crime has dropped to historic lows in the city.
"The number of stops reflects the number of times our police officers observe someone they reasonably suspect has committed a crime, or is about to commit a crime," NYPD spokesman John McCarthy said Tuesday night. "There is no 'right' number in any year -- no minimum or maximum."
Law-enforcement experts and officials have attributed the steady decline in stops to better training and a reduction of the officers placed in special NYPD impact zones, areas of high crime that get concentrated police activity.
A federal judge earlier this month found the NYPD had unconstitutionally administered stops and frisks against blacks and Hispanics in an "indirect" form of racial profiling. Judge Shira Scheindlin noted that about 83 percent of those stopped were minorities, although relatively few were charged with crimes or found to have weapons. She ordered the appointment of a special outside monitor to oversee police reforms and better training.
The latest statistics show that blacks made up 55 percent of those stopped in the second quarter of 2013 while Hispanics accounted for 29 percent, for a total of 84 percent. Over the years, that combined percentage has fluctuated in a narrow range, averaging about 86 percent. Blacks made up about 64 percent of crime suspect descriptions, compared with 29 percent for Hispanics, said one official.
A full breakdown of stops in each of the police commands, as well as the number of arrests and weapons, wasn't immediately available, but is likely to be released on Wednesday.
But city officials hinted at the decline Tuesday, when they filed a letter with Scheindlin asking her stay her order.
In asking for a stay, city lawyers noted that the number of stops had decreased in the second quarter, which they believed Scheindlin had not considered in prescribing what the NYPD had to do.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story misstated the percentage drop in stop-and-frisk incidents during the first half of 2013 compared with a year earlier.