Stop-and-frisk critics, proponents square off in wake of drop in incidents
The Bloomberg administration and its critics, citing new data showing NYPD stop-and-frisk encounters have plummeted, are squaring off again over the usefulness of the controversial police tactic.
Statistics released late Tuesday showed that stops in the first six months of this year totaled 157,876, compared with 337,954 during the same period in 2012, a fall of 53.3 percent. For the second quarter of this year, police reported 58,088 stops, compared with 133,934 in the period last year, a drop of 56.6 percent.
"It is going down because it's been effective," Mayor Michael Bloomberg said Wednesday at a news conference on an unrelated matter. He said with crime down, fewer stops are needed. Serious felonies are down 1.8 percent so far this year, with murders down 26.6 percent and shootings with victims down 27.5 percent.
But Donna Lieberman, executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, said the decrease in stops contradicted Bloomberg and NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly's claims that reduced street stops would cause a rise in crime.
"The latest numbers demonstrate an opposite pattern -- as street stops plummeted, the murder rate fell," Lieberman said in a prepared statement.
However, a spot check of some police precincts with some of the largest decreases so far this year in stops indicated that serious crimes, such as robbery, felonious assault and grand larceny, have increased in some.
For instance, the 30th Precinct in west Harlem recorded a drop of 73 percent in stops between the first and second quarters of this year and has also seen a 10.3 percent increase in serious crimes, including a 33 percent increase in shootings with victims. The 43rd Precinct in the Bronx also saw a sharp drop in stops in the same period and has had a 1.1 percent increase in serious crime,but a 38.5 reduction in shootings with victims.
Race and ethnicity have been the big area of contention between police and civil libertarians. Earlier this month, a Manhattan federal judge ruled that the NYPD stop-and-frisk tactics violate the Constitution and amount to "indirect" racial profiling because so many of the subjects are black and Hispanic.
U.S. District Judge Shira Scheindlin noted about 87 percent of those stopped are minorities and relatively few were charged with crimes or found to have weapons. She ordered the appointment of an outside monitor to oversee police reforms, and better training, officer-mounted cameras and an easier path for those stopped to sue.
The city is appealing the ruling and contends the stops reflect the racial pattern of crime suspects as reported by victims, with blacks amounting to more than 60 percent and Hispanics 29 percent of those suspects.
The latest data on stops show little change in the race and ethnicity of those stopped. In the second quarter, blacks were involved in 55 percent of the stops and Hispanics 29 percent, for a total of 84 percent, close to the historical average for the city. Whites were stopped 12 percent of the time and Asians 4 percent, the data show.
"It's time that Mayor Bloomberg and Commissioner Kelly abandon the scare tactics and engage New Yorkers in a meaningful discussion about reforming the practice of targeting blacks and Latino New Yorkers," Lieberman said.