Firearm Deaths Are Down, But Don’t Jump To Conclusions About Stop and Frisk


Today, GOP mayoral hopeful John Catsimatidis released a radio ad touting his support for “pro-active police work” and blasting foes of the NYPD’s controversial practice of stop and frisk. The ad followed on the heels of a new report out from the Department of Mental Health and Hygiene showing that firearm deaths per capita in New York City plummeted by 32 percent between 2000 and 2012. The report itself noted the state’s tight gun laws and permit review process, while Mayor Bloomberg also highlighted “proactive policing” as a factor in a Sunday address.

Of course, this report comes to us in the midst of an ongoing trial in which the NYPD is defending its stop and frisk practices. Mother Jones (full disclosure: my former employer) throws some shade on the claim that stop and frisk makes for an effective set of policies with some alternative data-crunching. Their analysis shows that blacks are stopped far more regularly and needlessly than whites, and that while the number of NYPD stops has skyrocketed, “violent crime in New York City has remained low for years and is still in modest decline.”

For example, Mother Jones reports that the NYPD seizes guns, drugs, or other weapons roughly once every 143 stops involving black individuals, whereas cops seize guns, drugs, or other weapons once every 27 stops for whites. Still, the stop disparity looms large: The NYPD has stopped 2.3 million black residents since 2004, but only 435,000 whites. The larger issue at stake is whether the racial inequity entrenched in stop and frisk causes more problems than the practice claims to solve. You can check out more Mother Jones stop and frisk infographics here.