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East Harlem and Midtown Among Manhattan's Top 5 NYPD Stop-and-Frisk Spots

By Jill Colvin | March 21, 2012 7:49am
East Harlem leads Manhattan in stop-and-frisks.
East Harlem leads Manhattan in stop-and-frisks.
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MANHATTAN — Police stopped and frisked more people in East Harlem than in any other Manhattan neighborhood last year, a new analysis of NYPD data shows.

Midtown also featured in the top five targeted areas.

In East Harlem’s 23rd precinct, which stretches from 96th to East 115th streets, 17,498 people were stopped in 2011 — the most in the borough and the sixth-most citywide, according to the New York Civil Liberties Union which is in the process of analyzing the 2011 data for a new report.

Coming in second in the borough was Central Harlem’s 32nd precinct, where 12,859 people were stopped last year, the 18th most citywide. Inwood and Washignton Heights’s 34th precinct came in third, with 11,548 stops — 23rd among the city's 70-plus precincts, the data show.

The Midtown South precinct, which spans Times Square, Penn Station and 34th Street, recorded 10,665 stops in 2011, placing it fourth in Manhattan and 28th citywide.

And another section of East Harlem, covered by the 25th precinct north of E. 116th Street and east of Fifth Avenue, saw 9,926 stops in 2011, making it fifth in the borough.

Police made nearly 700,000 stops last year under the controversial stop-and-frisk program, which allows officers to stop, question and pat-down people they deem suspicious on the street. Police say the program is the best tool the city has to get deadly guns off the streets, and credit it for contributing to a record-low murder rate.

But critics maintain it unfairly targets young black and Hispanic men, alienating minorities and straining relationships between communities and police.

"I'm obviously very concerned that the 23rd Precinct in my district is the top precinct for stop and frisks in Manhattan,” said City Councilwoman Melissa Mark-Viverito, an ardent critic of the practice, who got into a heated showdown with Police Commissioner Ray Kelly over the policy last week.

Mark-Viverito said it didn’t make sense for police to target El Barrio and East Harlem, which has a lower crime rate than other borough neighborhoods, she said.

But NYCLU executive director Donna Lieberman said she wasn’t surprised by the distribution, which she said closely correlates with socioeconomic status and race.

“Communities where the highest numbers of stops and frisks are occurring are overwhelmingly communities of color,” she said, adding that the racial disparities remain, even in neighborhoods that are a majority white.

“Wherever you go in New York, the people that get stopped are people of color,” she said.

Citywide, East New York’s 75 precinct topped the list, with 31,100 stops in 2011. Oceanville-Brownsville, Brooklyn’s 73rd precinct came in second, with 25,167.

Lieberman said that social science researchers at the group believe the Times Square area is an anomaly because of the huge number of cops always on patrol.

Crime in Midtown has dropped dramatically over the past decade, with the most common offense now grand larceny, for crimes like stealing wallets and iPhones, police data show.

Lieberman also cautioned that the numbers may not tell the whole story in other neighborhoods, like Inwood, since populations vary by precinct.

“Just because a precinct isn’t in the top ten or 20 doesn’t mean that there isn’t an unacceptably high rate of stop and frisk," she said.

"The impact on the community remains quite substantial."

There were also other surprising findings.

Jackson Heights, Queens, for instance, isn’t known as a hot crime spot, but its 115th precinct, which covers East Elmhurst, North Corona and Jackson Heights, ranked third citywide, with 18,156 stops in 2011, the NYCLU said.

Rounding out the top five citywide were the 40th precinct in the South Bronx and the 90th precinct, in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

Brooklyn City Councilman Jumaane Williams, another critic of stop and frisk, said that the locations don’t appear to correlate with crime statics and shootings, undermining the city's rationale.

In some precincts, he said both shootings and stops have gone up, while in others, both stops and shootings have decreased, or stops have gone down, while shots have risen.

“There’s just no correlation,” he said, adding that the practice has a demoralizing effect on both police and residents.

Nahal Zamani, who works with the advocacy group Communities United for Police Reform, which has sued the NYPD over the policy, agreed the stops have a negative impact on residents, making them feel unsafe walking down the street.

“People, especially in low income communities of color, they’re feeling targeted. They’re feeling humiliated by the practice,” she said.