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Did Stop-And-Frisk Save New York City? The Stats Say Not Really

Anders Hagstrom Video Columnist
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When former NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced his 2020 presidential campaign, his one-time support for stop-and-frisk policing was one of the first criticisms out of pundits’ mouths, leading him to release an apology where he derided the tactic as ineffective and racist.

Bloomberg entered office on the heels of Rudy Giuliani in 2002 and was one of stop-and-frisk’s most ardent supporters. His apology, however, helps distance himself from an issue where he seemingly agreed with President Donald Trump. While many had credited stop-and-frisk with the near-miraculous drop in crime seen in New York City during the 1990s, sources from National Review to Jacobin now largely agree the tactic was not what not lowered the crime rates, it was the increase in police presence.

Stop-and-frisk incidents peaked in 2011 under Bloomberg and when they were almost completely eliminated by 2016 under de Blasio, some warned of an impending crime spike. It never came. Instead, NYC’s homicides fell from 515 to 335; robberies fell from 19,717 incidents to 15,500; burglary fell from 18,600 incidents to 12,990, and vehicle larceny fell from 10,670 incidents to 6,327.

Only rape, felony assault, and grand larceny remained level or increased, but the total number of major offenses fell from 106,669 to 101,716 and has continued to fall as of 2018. Similarly, the number non-major felony offenses dropped from 57,240 in 2011 to 52,667 in 2018 and misdemeanor offenses fell from 383,108 to 271,630 over the same years. (RELATED: NYPD Tases Man Who Enters Station Holding Knife In Viral Video)

“NYPD’s deployment of extra police to high crime neighborhoods contributed far more to the crime reduction than the use of stop, question, and frisk,” wrote John MacDonald, a University of Pennsylvania professor who authored a study on the topic. “Research on the NYPD’s program of Operation Impact found that extra police deployed to high crime areas in New York was a major factor in the crime decline: a 12 percent to 15 percent reduction. The additional use of stop, question, and frisk made almost no difference.”

A New York City police officer stands in Times Square on August 12, 2013 in New York City. The controversial policy employed by the New York Police Department (NYPD) in high crime neighborhoods known as stop and frisk, has been given a severe rebuke by a federal judge on Monday.(Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

A New York City police officer stands in Times Square on August 12, 2013 in New York City. The controversial policy employed by the New York Police Department (NYPD) in high crime neighborhoods known as stop and frisk, has been given a severe rebuke by a federal judge. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Kyle Smith of National Review argued the ending of stop-and-frisk which he opposed has turned out to be one of de Blasio’s few triumphs as mayor:

New York City’s mayor is a contemptible human being who marched in a parade headed by a terrorist, flouted the law in failing to turn over unused school space for high-quality charters that serve as a lifeline out of the slums, and did favors for campaign fundraisers. But as de Blasio begins his second and final term as mayor, having been sworn in by the country’s sole high-ranking socialist, Bernie Sanders, he’s entitled to an I-told-you-so moment on the issue that swept him into office.

But a major contention from Democrats is not only that stop-and-frisk doesn’t work, but that it is racist. Alex Elkins at Jacobin points out that the tactic has directly lead to repeated riots across the United States, such as in Paterson, New Jersey in 1964 and Avondale, Ohio in 1967. (RELATED: NYPD Cops Doused With Water, Struck In String Of Assaults — Officer Unions Are Infuriated)

A policeman searches black suspects in a Detroit street on July 25, 1967 as buildings are burning during riots that erupted in Detroit following a police operation. AFP/Getty Images

A policeman searches black suspects in a Detroit street on July 25, 1967 as buildings are burning during riots that erupted in Detroit following a police operation. (AFP/Getty Images)

Police at the time undeniably discriminated targeted minority communities with abuse, and because the majority of people police stop and search today are still minorities, critics argue the tactic is itself racist. The New York Post argued on Sunday that stop-and-frisk disproportionately impacts minorities because there is a disproportionate number of minority criminal suspects.

“As for ‘racist’: Yes,” the Post editorial board wrote. “Police stopped far more black and Hispanic civilians than white or Asians ones — relative to their share of the overall city population — But not relative to their share of criminal suspects, as reported by crime victims (who are also disproportionately black and Latino).” (RELATED: Ferguson Police Department Struggles To Recruit And Maintain Force After Black Lives Matter Riots)

Police officers draw their weapons during a protest, following a release of previously undisclosed video of Michael Brown, in Ferguson, Missouri, U.S. on March 12, 2017. Picture taken on March 12, 2017. REUTERS/Lawrence Bryant

Police officers draw their weapons during a protest, following a release of previously undisclosed video of Michael Brown, in Ferguson, Missouri, U.S. on March 12, 2017. Picture taken on March 12, 2017. (REUTERS/Lawrence Bryant)

The New York Daily News, the Post’s more liberal competitor, also supported stop and frisk for many years, but in 2016 admitted that the predicted spike in crime had failed to materialize. “Post stop-and-frisk, the facts are clear: New York is safer while friction between the NYPD and the city’s minority communities has eased,” they wrote at the time.

Whether or not it’s racist, the effectiveness of stop and frisk has been largely disproven. The Post maintains that the tactic does help when a police force is thin, but the effect is marginal. New York and most of America’s cities still have police to thank for their often-miraculous declines in crime rates since 1990, but it has more to do with the number of officers than the tactics they use.