Stop-and-Frisk App Launched by Red Hook Initiative

By Alan Neuhauser on October 17, 2012 7:28am | Updated on October 19, 2012 12:07pm

RED HOOK — Brooklyn's Red Hook Initiative community center launched a free cell phone app Monday night to track how often residents are stopped and frisked by police.

The app, simply named "Stop & Frisks," lets users record as much information as they remember after they are stopped and searched by cops — such as where the stop occurred and if officers gave any reason for the stop.

That information is then submitted to RHI, which conducted a neighborhood survey of stop-and-frisk trends this spring, and to the New York Civil Liberties Union, which produces an annual citywide report on stop-and-frisks. The NYCLU also offers its own app that includes audio and video recording functions.

"I realized just how many young men in our neighborhood — and women — were being stopped," said RHI media programs coordinator Anthony Schloss, who helped develop the community center's app.

"It's not about crime prevention, it's about the right we should have as individuals to walk around our streets."

RHI's app was produced in about 10 days, and it is still undergoing improvements. Available for download online, its release Monday was part of a larger RHI meeting on stop-and-frisk, which focused on the results of the community center's spring stop-and-frisk survey.

RHI workers, partnering with Occupy Red Hook volunteers, polled 761 Red Hook residents and found that more than half had been stopped and searched by police in the past three years. A vast majority of the stops occurred on streets that border Red Hook's public housing complexes, and about half of those stopped said police used force.

"It would be strange if they stopped bothering us," said a 20-year-old Red Hook Houses resident, who said he has been stopped 10 times this year. He declined to give his name to avoid attracting further attention from the police.

"The blue-and-whites, it's almost like they're bullies in the neighborhood."

Close to 90 percent of those stopped by police said the officers were not "courteous, professional or respectful," the survey found, and nearly three-quarters of those searched said they were ultimately let go without charge.

"That's an error, to have people who are innocent harassed," said Anna Ortega-Williams, RHI senior director of programs and training, who oversaw the survey.

"This disproportionately affects people who live in public housing. It's an unfair practice."

Alisa Pizarro, one of the survey's organizers, was more direct. "I feel that it's racial," she said in an eight-minute RHI documentary on stop-and-frisk titled, "Fit the Description."

"I feel like it's racial profiling."

Red Hook resident and activist Reg Flowers, a Community Change Worker at RHI and an organizer for Occupy Red Hook, urged residents to attend and press the issue of stop-and-frisk at monthly community council meetings at the 76th Precinct, which patrols Red Hook as well as Cobble Hill and Carroll Gardens.

"It feels powerful to be in a meeting full of people asking for accountability," Flowers said, wearing a black T-shirt that read "I would like to remain silent" — a "Police Proof" shirt designed this spring by Occupy Red Hook that's available through RHI.

"This isn't the end of a conversation," Flowers continued. "This is a beginning."

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