New Yorkers who don’t like stop-and-frisk can go live in Philadelphia and Washington D.C. and see how they like the murder rates there!
This is what a pretty braggy Mike Bloomberg said yesterday in response to a question from the Voice about the logic behind his repeated defense of the NYPD’s controversial stop-and-frisk policy — that it saves thousands of lives.
We were interested in the argument of Michael Powell at the Times, who recently questioned the go-to response of the mayor and Police Commissioner Ray Kelly that stop-and-frisk has played an important role over the past decade in saving 5,600 lives.
Powell argued that this number is a bit of stretch:
The mayor’s math is certainly inventive, as well as deeply ahistoric. He takes the high point for homicides, which hovered around 2,200 in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Then he points to the number of homicides each year since he took office in 2002, which has hovered near 500, and claims 5,600 lives saved.
Where to begin?
The early 1990s represented a high-water mark for urban bloodshed. Boston, Miami, Chicago, Los Angeles, Richmond, Washington: all became caldrons of violence.
The wave of homicides subsided most substantially in New York, but violence slid in most cities. Smart policing helped a lot. So did the waning of the crack epidemic, the decline of drug turf wars, and tens of thousands of citizens who refused to stay locked in their homes.
New York experienced its sharpest drop before 2002, the year Mr. Bloomberg took office. Since then, homicides have fallen about 11 percent, while stop-and-frisks increased sevenfold.
We thought yesterday we’d take the off-topic portion of a Gracie Mansion press conference to ask Bloomberg directly to explain the calculation.
“You take the murder rate when we came into office and if that murder rate had stayed the same, rather than coming down over the last ten years,” the mayor said, before his spokesman Stu Loeser jumped in and said the number comes from the rate of the last ten years compared to the rate of the previous ten years.
More interested in how the mayor and the NYPD knows that those declines in murders actually relates to stop-and-frisk, the Voice asked the mayor about criticisms that police stops may not deserve so much credit. This prompted him to brag about New York City and badmouth Philadelphia and D.C.
“You can’t do social experiments the way you do physics experiments,” Bloomberg said. “Do you really want to put your children out there on the street and run the risk that it was or was not what we were doing? I don’t think so.”
He continued, “We have worked as hard as we can to bring the murder rate down. There are a lot fewer deaths…It is a good number…It continues to come down.”
He then referenced a recent Times editorial that said New York City should model its stop-and-frisk reforms after Philadelphia, which, in response to a class-action lawsuit, accepted a consent decree that explicitly defined and prohibited illegal stops and established a court-appointed monitor to oversee stop-and-frisk.
“The murder rate went down by a third,” when Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter implemented stop-and-frisk, Bloomberg said. “He made a settlement, I don’t know why…and they…cut back dramatically, and the murder rate went back up significantly.”
He added, “We have worked as hard as we can to keep everybody safe, and we try to do it, we believe we are doing it consistent with what the law permits you to do…Crime is concentrated in a handful of neighborhoods so that’s where we’re stop and frisks tend to be.”
Then back to Philadelphia bashing.
“The public here in this city would not want to change places with Philadelphia. Philadelphia has the highest murder rate of any of the ten largest cities in the country. New York City has the lowest. Where would you want to live?” he said.
But it’s not just Philadelphia that’s undesirable!
“Washington D.C. has a murder rate that’s…three times New York. You want to live there? No,” he said, adding later, “I’m not bragging about New York versus any place else.”
“Yes he is,” a reporter next to the Voice muttered.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on May 30, 2012