2012: The Year of Stop and Frisk


“The safest city in America is safer,” Mr. Bloomberg proclaimed on Friday, alongside NYPD commissioner Ray Kelly. At a graduation ceremony for hundreds of new NYPD recruits, the mayor and his police chief laid out the statistics to an audience of those entering the anti-crime business. And he had a lot of progress to point to.
According to Mr. Bloomberg, 2012 was another unprecedented year of low crime; a pattern his administration has become all but accustomed to. Shootings have dropped 8 percent (those fatal, 20 percent), homicides are at their lowest recordable rate ever, and, once again, the FBI has ranked New York as the most populous city with the lowest crime occurrences per 10,000 people. Hats off to all this information — but the reality on the ground goes a bit deeper.
There was another statistic floating around at this commemorative graduation-turned-press-conference that added a different layer to our crime situation: the higher-than-ever rates of stop and frisks conducted by the NYPD. Last year’s number of 684,330 stops broke records; however, this year, that amount made a bit of a drop off. Still, in a bizarre fashion, the practice was publicly held up as the shining glory of the low statistics mentioned before. Take this line that could be from Minority Report as proof: “We’re preventing crimes before someone is killed and before someone else has to go to prison for murder or other serious crimes,” Ray Kelly told the force’s new faces.
And that leaves us with an important question we need to answer: Was 2012 just another year of low crime or stop and frisk?
As we all know, stop and frisk has met its fair share of protest; led by the New York Civil Liberties Union, critics alike have lambasted the practice for racial profiling. The charge is based off the discrepancy between strata: Place the fact that 87 percent of these people stopped were Hispanic or African-American next to the fact that only 53 percent of New York considers themselves Hispanic or African-American. So, by now, it’s safe to say that stop and frisk has surpassed the boundaries of being “controversial.”
And, of course, there are cases in which several statistics are either overlooked or ignored entirely. The only major blip in the hopeful projections for crime in New York came in 2010 — a mid-recession year when the murder rate doubled. But fellow Voice writer Graham Rayman extensively mentioned that we cannot emphasize the murder rate as proof that things are getting better; this year, crime began to spike in other areas, including rape, robbery, and grand theft auto. However, those areas did not make it into Mr. Bloomberg’s speech.
But the criticism directed toward stop and frisk underwhelms its application to low crime; a statistical matter we touched upon a few months back. The numbers fall in place accordingly: stop and frisk skyrockets, crime plummets. In other words, keep a watch on everyone, and no one will get hurt. Although an absolute zero sum is never possible, it can be said that the higher this level of alert grows (a staggering 700 percent growth since the mayor took office in 2002), the more progress Mr. Bloomberg and Mr. Kelly will have to point to.
Following that logic, 2012 blended both aspects of that question posed before; it was definitely a year of low crime, trimmed by a year of stop and frisk. Therefore, it was another case study in a dynamic of law and order that has to come to define Mr. Bloomberg’s approach to keeping our streets safe. Here’s to what 2013 has to bring.
[[email protected]/@JSuricz]