The Big Frisk: Why The Increase in Stop-and-Searches?

It takes a lot to keep the lid on New York crime, but does it take 171,094 stop-and-frisks in three months? Only MSG gets more than that. But that's what the NYPD clocked from January to March this year. The New York Civil Liberties Union doesn't approve of this high pat-down incidence -- a 16 percent increase over the previous three-month measurement -- especially considering nine out of ten of these detainees weren't charged with anything.

Granted, patdowns are a slightly more polite affair since the NYPD started handing out explanatory cards each time they stopped citizens to let them why they were detained. (It also serves as a good excuse-note for your teacher or boss.) But you'd only expect the number of them to go up if we were suffering a crime wave.

Officially, the opposite is true: Crime is still down in New York -- or at least reports of crime are down, which may owe in part to factors other than the increased docility of citizens. But last year the murder rate went up, and that's not as easy to fudge as other crime numbers. So maybe the Big Frisk is a sign that the department is more worried than they let on.

Or maybe they just want to get us all used to universal random searches. After all, as our Nanny State archives show, this city isn't moving in a freedom-friendly direction; if cops could make frisking into something everyone expects, and therefore accepts without complaint, that would certainly make policing more efficient, especially in the view of the brass.

The NYCLU suggests a racist component to the uptick because, as usual, the numbers show police far more likely to frisk blacks and Latinos than whites. But you have to start somewhere. The complaints of members of minority groups are the least likely to be noticed, and will certainly be explained by the local papers as their own fault. Don't worry, white people, they'll get to you eventually. Now have a pleasant, transfat- and smoke-free evening, observe all traffic laws, and keep your hands where we can see them.


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