Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Stop and Frisk Hasn't Reduced NYC Shootings

Despite the soaring number of stop and frisk encounters by the New York Police Department, the number of shooting has continued at the same level as before stop and frisk became official NYPD policy.
While the NYPD was stopping and frisking a record 685,724 people last year, 1,821 people were victims of gunfire, according to NYPD and city statistics. That's virtually the same number as in 2002, Bloomberg's first year in office, when 1,892 people were shot, but just 97,296 people were frisked.

The year before, there were 1,845 shootings with a similar number of frisks.

"If you have a flat-line situation with shootings, and the stops are this high, you are throwing everyone up against the wall and you are losing the community, then you have to reassess," a former top NYPD official told "On the Inside."
There's a couple of points to address. If the number of shootings has remained constant during the past decade, but stop and frisk has increased exponentially, something is wrong with that policy since it was intended to get guns off the street. While proponents might argue that the number of shootings might have been even higher had stop and frisk not been in place, the numbers don't exactly bear this out as other reports have indicated that the number of guns recovered during stop and frisks is exceedingly and shockingly low.

Indeed, the number of guns recovered during stop and frisk has gone from 1 in 266 stops to 1 in 3,000. Doing the math, that works out to roughly 228 guns recovered in 2011 as compared to 365 recovered in 2003.

It's also interesting that the number of shootings has remained constant even as the number of murders has remained at or near historic lows. That could be attributed to better life-saving techniques or that there was more random and non-lethal gunfire (firing in the air and random people were struck in a non-fatal manner for instance). This points to the fact that the NYPD has gotten lucky with the low murder rates, considering that the gunfire hasn't decreased.

And that brings me back to stop and frisk. If the policy isn't getting guns off the streets (and a gun-buyback program might accomplish more without totally isolating a community and creating more problems for community policing efforts), then something needs to be done to refocus efforts on those criminal elements bringing the guns into the city. Stop and frisk isn't working and it is taking valuable resources away from other more vital services at a time when the NYPD is being pulled in multiple directions (think continuing counterterrorism work) with an ever more limited budget.

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