Stop-and-frisks by the NYPD likely reduce criminal activity in high-crime hot spots but other policing strategies may have the same or stronger impact, according to a new statistical study by a prominent criminologist.
A team led by Professor David Weisburd of George Mason University in Virginia analyzed NYPD stop-and-frisk data from 2006 to 2011 and concluded that in high-crime areas like the Bronx, the controversial tactic had a "significant though modest deterrent effect on crime."
The study will be published in an upcoming edition of "Criminology and Public Policy," a journal of the American Society of Criminology.
The impact of the NYPD's stop-and-frisk program was one of "immediate crime prevention across short [geographic] distances and with a limited time frame," the study concluded, noting there was little evidence that crimes moved to other areas.
But while some proponents of stop and frisk might look to the study to support using stop and frisk more widely at a time of increased killings and shootings, Weisburd and his team said use of the tactic, as seen in recent years, was not justified.
When the city saw nearly 700,000 stop-and-frisks in 2011, the study estimated that the tactic led to just a 2 percent drop in crime citywide. An NYPD spokesman didn't return calls for comment Thursday.
"Even if we assumed that the approach as practiced in NYC was constitutional, this seems like a very large police investment for a relatively small prevention gain," the study said.
The report noted a Manhattan federal judge's 2013 finding that police used stop-and-frisk unconstitutionally against minorities and an order for a federal monitor to supervise future police activity. Peter Zimroth, the court monitor, declined to comment Thursday.
Weisburd's study follows up one he did in 2014 that came to similar conclusions. His studies used geographic data provided by the NYPD not normally available on the locations of crimes and police stops.
The study was financed by the Open Society Foundations through a grant to John Jay College of Criminal Justice, Weisburd said. Open Society Foundations is an international nonprofit group focusing on human rights issues.
NYPD Commissioner William Bratton has looked askance at criminologist studies of stop and frisk. In June, when asked if looking at street segments instead of precincts was better at measuring the tactic's effectiveness, Bratton said no. He characterized criminologists as "sitting in their office, typing away, they're not out in the street like we are."
However, Weisburd's study acknowledged stop-and-frisk has a place in crime prevention and it is "time for scholars to recognize that . . . [stop question and frisk] focused on micro-geographic hot spots are likely to reduce crime."
Bratton has said there is no right level for stop-and-frisk but that he wants it done constitutionally and respectfully.