Stop-and-Frisks Have Done Little to Reduce Shootings, NYPD Data Show

By Murray Weiss on June 5, 2012 8:25am 

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While the number of Stop-and-frisks has increased dramatically, the number of shootings has stayed the same.
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DNAinfo/Michael Miguez

MANHATTAN — The skyrocketing numbers of NYPD stop-and-frisks had little impact on the number of people shot in New York City or on gun violence in general during Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s administration, a DNAinfo.com New York analysis of crime data has found.

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."

"We are not a militia, but a police organization serving a community," the ex-cop continued. "We don’t want to be seen as an occupying army. We need the large majority of the community to be involved with us."

Between 2009 and 2011, the number of people shot in New York climbed from 1,727 to 1,821 even as the NYPD was ratcheting up the number of people it rousted from 510,742 in 2009 to the record 685,724, the statistics showed.

A similar pattern of rising shootings and escalating stop-and-frisks occurred from 2004 through 2006. During those years, the NYPD stop-and-frisks jumped 70 percent, from 313,523 to 506,491, but the number of shooting victims rose about 7 percent, from 1,777 to 1,880.

During Bloomberg’s first five years in office, the number of stops and frisks went up five fold, from 97,296 in 2002 to 506,491 in 2006. But the numbers of shootings and victims — 1,556 and 1,880, respectively — remained about the same since he and Kelly started.

Perhaps that helps explain why the NYPD kept the stop-and-frisk numbers a secret until February 2007 when they finally handed them over to the City Council, even though it was required following the 1999 fatal police shooting of Amadou Diallo.

To be sure, part of the rise in stop-and-frisks is due to cops getting better at reporting the encounters. But this in no way explains away a seven-fold jump in 10 years.

"On the Inside" recently reported that current and former police officials were questioning the volume of stop-and-frisks, and were worried about who was conducting the searches, the value gleaned from them and whether it was having the intended results.

This column also highlighted cases where a seminary student from Ohio and a Spanish teacher from Michigan were arrested by "Zero Tolerance" cops who after frisks revealed pocket knives.

The NYPD’s Stop and Frisk policy has come under heavy fire from critics claiming it unduly targets minorities in a handful of city neighborhoods with elevated levels of crime. DNAinfo.com New York recently crunched the data and found stop-and-frisk hot spots based on race.

And a federal judge recently gave class-action status to a lawsuit and found "overwhelming evidence" that top NYPD brass had put in place "a centralized stop and frisk program that has led to thousands of unlawful stops."

Stung by the judge’s decision, Kelly reversed his very public verbal assault on his critics, and announced that he was taking steps to scale back stop-and-frisks. He said cops would be retrained on conducting lawful stops, and be reminded against racial profiling, among other adjustments.

But Bloomberg and Kelly continue to defend the program by claiming it has reduced murders and saved lives. They skillfully try to compare the Bloomberg-era death toll to that of the 1990s when crime was sky-high, and then tumbled 75 percent to 1960-era levels.

"Nobody should ask Ray Kelly to apologize — he's not going to and neither am I — for saving 5,600 lives," Bloomberg said recently. "I think it's fair to say that stop-question-and-frisk has been an essential part of the NYPD's work."

Comparing stop-and-frisks to the number of people who are shot — not to murders — provides a more accurate portrait of its impact, or not, experts say.

"I make no distinction between murder and a shooting where someone’s hit," one former top NYPD strategist told “On The Inside.”

"It could just be a good EMT at the scene, or doctor in the E.R., or a fraction of an inch where the bullet hit," he said.

Experts say the city’s declining murder rate has definitely been helped by advancements in medicine, on-scene triage by paramedics (they did not even carry defibrillators a decade ago), and the emergency room techniques of surgeons and hospital staff.

Homicide detectives witness medical wizardry every day, and can rattle off stories without a moment’s hesitation including the East Harlem gang banger who was shot nine times — including in his head, chest, neck and stomach — and lived.

Police Commissioner Ray Kelly and Mayor Michael Bloomberg have defended skyrocketing stops and frisks.
Police Commissioner Ray Kelly and Mayor Michael Bloomberg have defended skyrocketing stops and frisks.
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Mario Tama/Getty Images

"The question everyone was wondering about Bloomberg when he came into office following Rudy Giuliani and the great crime declines was whether he and Ray Kelly could hold the line and keep crime down," said Thomas Reppetto, an NYPD expert and author of "American Police: Volume II, 1945-2012."

The answer is he has, which is no small feat.

But Bloomberg and Kelly do not have to outdo Rudy Giuliani at every turn, taking already hard lines to maniacal levels. Trampling people's rights is assuredly the one way to undermine all of that success.

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