The number of people questioned under New York City's controversial stop-and-frisk policy dropped by 51 percent in the first quarter of 2013 compared with the same period last year, newly released police statistics show.
For the first quarter of 2013, police carried out 99,788 stop and frisks, compared with 203,500 for the same period in 2012. NYPD spokesman Paul Browne noted on Friday that the first quarter of 2012 had the highest number of stops ever recorded for a three-month period, making this year's percentage drop-off higher.
Police have previously noted that a large influx of new officers into anti-crime patrols helped in part to increase the number of stops in the first quarter of 2012. Since then, the number of officers put into such patrols has been reduced and stops have been trending downward. Law enforcement sources said that in response to criticism the NYPD has increased supervision of stop and frisk activity.
The latest numbers also show that there was an 11 percent increase in stop-and-frisk activity in the first quarter of this year compared with the last quarter of last year -- when stops dropped to 89,620 -- as police had to deal with the impact and devastation of superstorm Sandy, officials said.
"The last quarter was somewhat down because of Sandy," Browne said on Friday.
Police historian Tom Reppetto said Monday he believed that this year's lower numbers compared with early 2012 showed that the NYPD has been modifying its practices.
"I think certainly with all of the criticism they are refining it more, that is only natural," said Reppetto. "Nobody has ever claimed that every stop and frisk is perfect."
The big drop in first-quarter stops affected the number of weapons seized by police. Officers confiscated 49 percent fewer firearms in the first quarter of 2013 and 43 percent fewer weapons of all types, according to the NYPD. However, the total number of shootings so far this year is down 22.4 percent, something officials attribute to an anti-gang offensive.
In an analysis of data provided Friday to the New York City Council, the NYPD also noted that blacks and Hispanics were the subjects of 86 percent of stop and frisks in the first quarter of this year, a percentage which has been in line with previous trends over the years.
Stop-and-frisk activity by the NYPD is the subject of an ongoing federal trial in which a judge is trying to determine if the NYPD has illegally targeted blacks and Hispanics for street stops. The NYPD insists that it doesn't racially profile. The issue is a major law enforcement topic in the mayoral campaign in which candidates either want to do away with the activity or reform it. Mayor Michael Bloomberg has drawn his own line in the sand, insisting that he will not cut back on stop and frisks and argues that it has helped the city achieve record-low homicides and serious crimes like burglary, as well as reduce shootings.