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Stop-and-Frisks Target Minorities Regardless of Neighborhood, NYCLU Says

By Jill Colvin | May 9, 2012 3:18pm
CB12's public safety committee passed a resolution on the reform of the NYPD's stop and frisk policy.
CB12's public safety committee passed a resolution on the reform of the NYPD's stop and frisk policy.
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LOWER MANHATTAN — In Greenwich Village and Soho, black and Latino residents make up just 8 percent of the population — but more than 76.6 percent of those stopped by the NYPD last year are minorities, according to new numbers released by the New York Civil Liberties Union.

The percentage of black and Latino New Yorkers stopped and frisked by the NYPD remained overwhelmingly higher than their white counterparts across the city last year, regardless of what neighborhood they live in, according to the NYCLU's report.

Stop-and-frisk numbers have risen dramatically in recent years, increasing by more than 600 percent from 2002 to 2011, when there were nearly 700,000 stops.

On the Upper East Side, Kips Bay, Murray Hill and Turtle Bay — where the percentage of blacks and Latino residents is less than 10 percent — more than 70 percent of those stopped were either Latino or black.

On the Upper West Side and in Gramercy and Downtown, the percentage of minority residents is slightly higher — 15 percent — but as much as 76 percent of those stopped were black and Latino, the survey showed.

“That is a striking indictment of the way the department is targeting young black men,” said NYCLU executive director Donna Lieberman, who called on the NYPD to find other ways to control violence in communities.

“We need to put an end to stop-and-frisk abuse and the wholesale violation of civil rights,” she added.

Nearly 90 percent of people stopped and frisked by the NYPD in 2011 were released without any charges or evidence of wrongdoing, the study found.

The NYCLU found that less than 12 percent of the 685,724 recorded stops in 2011 led to an arrest or summons, with a far higher percentage of young blacks and Latinos stopped and released than other groups.

The findings were part of a new analysis of the NYPD’s most recent data, which the group said paints a picture of “two New Yorks” — where young black and Latino men are targeted for often-violent searches, even in neighborhoods that are a majority white.

“Crime has declined in urban areas all over the country without resorting to this out-of-control level of the abuse of stop-and-frisk activity,” Lieberman said.

Police Commissioner Ray Kelly has long argued the stop-and-frisk program is the most effective way to get guns off the street, and credits the program for helping to drive down the city’s murder rate, which has plummeted 77 percent — to record lows — since 1990.

While blacks and Latinos represent the vast majority of those searched, they also represent the vast majority of murder victims and murder suspects, the NYPD notes.

But Lieberman argued that the distrust and ill-will created by the stops far outweighs any benefits, including gun recovery.

The report shows, for instance, that the dramatic increase in stop-and-frisks has not produced a corresponding increase in the number of guns recovered.

While stop-and-frisks have spiked by more than 300 percent since 2003, with more than half a million more stops last year, gun recovery rose by 30 percent, from 604 guns in 2003 to 780 in 2011.

That translates to just one gun recovered for every additional 3,000 stops, the NYCLU said, arguing that less controversial measures, like gun-buyback programs, have proven just as effective.

The report also compared the number of stops in each police precinct with their total populations, and found large disparities, in numbers.

In Brownsville, for instance, 29 percent of the population was stopped in 2011, versus just 2.5 percent on the Upper East Side and 2 percent in Borough Park.

The numbers do not account for the possibility that a person may have been stopped twice.

Numerous elected officials, including all of the presumptive Democratic candidates for mayor, have called for reforms to the stop-and-frisk program.

Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, who is among those expected to run, called on Mayor Michael Bloomberg Wednesday to immediately issue an executive order "dramatically reducing the number of unwarranted stops" and announced a new campaign to pressure the administration to act.

“We cannot wait until the Mayor leaves office to change this broken policy. Stop and frisk is a valid police tool, but it is being misused thousands of times each day," de Blasio said, arguing that "Every unwarranted stop widens the gap between police and the communities they protect — making us all less safe."

The administration defended the policy, noting that, when de Blasio served in the Dinkins administration, there were 2,000 murders a year versus less than 500 today.

"Mr. de Blasio may be nostalgic for the days when the ACLU set crime policy in this city, but most New Yorkers don’t want rampant crime to return," Deputy Mayor Howard Wolfson said in a statement.

"The fact is Stop, Question and Frisk keeps guns and other weapons off the streets and saves lives. Make no mistake, we will not continue to be the safest big city in America if Mr. de Blasio has his way," he said.

According to the NYCLU, the top 5 neighborhoods (based on police precinct) for stop-and-frisks in 2011 were:

1. East New York (31,100)

2. Brownsville, Ocean Hill (25,167)

3. Jackson Heights (18,156)

4. Mott Haven, Melrose (17,690)

5. Williamsburg (17,566)

The top 5 neighborhoods where stop-and-frisks did not result in charges or tickets in 2011 were:

1. East New York (27,672)

2. Brownsville, Ocean Hill (22,365)

3. Jackson Heights (16,576)

4. Williamsburg (16,314)

5. East Harlem (15,969)