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Reduced Crime Rates in New York: Is Stop-and-Frisk Responsible for the Drop?

Wednesday Oct 19th, on Criminal Defense Articles |

In 2002, the practice of stop-and-frisk took off in New York City under the second term of police commissioner Raymond Kelly. Stop-and-frisk occurs when the police stop civilians, question them and frisk them to determine if they have any contraband on them. In 2002, the number of stops that the New York police department recorded increased from 97,000 to 161,000.  The number of stops doubled again the next year.

The practice of stop-and-frisk continued at a steady pace for more than a decade -- simultaneously with a drop in New York’s violent crime rate. This led some people to make the assertion that stop-and-frisk was the reason for the decline in homicides and other violent crimes in the city. In fact, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has asserted that stop-and-frisk works and he has made stop-and-frisk one of his policy proposals for fighting crime in America's cities.  However, the Washington Post asserts that there are problems with the claim that stop-and-frisk is an effective policy for fighting crime.

Effective or not, stop-and-frisk the way it was being done in New York was found unconstitutional because it amounted to a “policy of indirect racial profiling.” When unconstitutional searches occur, any evidence that is obtained in those searches cannot and should not be used. Albany criminal defense attorneys can provide assistance to anyone who has been charged with a crime based on an illegal search.

Why Stop-and-Frisk is Not an Effective Way to Reduce Crime

There is ample evidence to suggest stop-and-frisk was not the reason why New York City experienced a drop in crime.  For one thing, the NYPD began to move away from stop-and-frisk in 2013 and the homicide rate continued to drop just as it had been doing when stop-and-frisk was more heavily used. 

Legal scholars from Columbia University also worked with other researchers to try to determine if stop-and-frisk was making a big impact on crime rates dropping. The research showed clearly that a high rate of stop-and-frisk was not associated with a reduction in crime if the practice of stopping civilians was indiscriminate. The researchers looked at specific neighborhoods where the police had made crime control efforts, comparing those areas to other locations to make their assessment of the impact of stop and frisk.

Stop-and-frisk has been determined by experts to make a difference ONLY if the police stop civilians after directly observing a violent or illegal act, such as selling drugs or casing a store for burglary. However, this is not what many police officers in New York were doing with stop-and-frisk. 

Instead, police were found to have been frequently targeting minorities based on vague justifications and pretexts, including things like “furtive” movements. When done this way, stop-and-frisk is not only unconstitutional, but also a waste of police time and resources.

Essentially, this means that while stopping and frisking civilians under appropriate circumstances can help to fight crime, there must actually be a legitimate reason for the search.  If law enforcement officers conduct an unlawful search based on an unjustified rationale, it becomes important to talk with the criminal defense attorneys at The Law Office of James E. Tyner, PLLC to see if illegally-obtained evidence during the search can be suppressed. Contact our office today for assistance.

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