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by Peter Moskos

December 26, 2013

"Decreased Stop and Frisk Causes Crime to Skyrocket in NYC"

Well that's the headline I would have expected to see after listening to Ray Kelly and Mayor Bloomberg (and almost all my police friends) over the past few years. They had me believe that each and every one of those more than 600,000 annual stops in 2011 was absolutely essential to prevent the city from descending into an Orwellian Escape from New York type chaos!

Well this year stop, question, and frisks are down 50 percent and homicides are down another 20 percent (which is really amazing).

Today the city released a press release touting this most recent crime drop (did I mention how amazing this is?!). Interestingly, nothing was said about stop and frisk. How odd.

So while some stop and frisks are needed -- you know, ones based police officers' actual reasonable suspicion that a suspect is armed -- it seem like the NYPD can do just fine, gosh, perhaps even better, while stopping 800 fewer people per day.

The problem when you try and quantify the "productivity" of police work (or almost any occupation) is that those being judged start to play to the stats. Means becomes ends. Ends be damned.

But now Bloomberg barely gives the police any credit at all! Here's the press release:
To: Interested Parties
From: Howard Wolfson
RE: T-Minus 5

Over the last 10 days, Mayor Bloomberg has been to each of the five boroughs, cutting ribbons, touring schools, riding on a new subway extension, visiting new parks, and discussing the incredible progress of the last twelve years.

Today and tomorrow the Mayor will highlight the Administration’s record fighting crime while reducing incarceration rates by visiting a Neighborhood Opportunity Network Center and by attending his final police graduation ceremony to swear in more than 1,100 police recruits.

Under Mayor Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Ray Kelly crime has fallen in New York City to record lows:

Safest big city in the nation: New York City has fewer major felony crimes per 100,000 residents than any of the nation’s top 25 largest cities.

Total Crime: Down 32% compared to 2001, despite the added demand of counterterrorism, having fewer officers in the ranks, and adding 300,000 more people to the city’s population.

Murder: On pace to have a record low number of murders in 2013 following a record low established in 2012.
Murder is down 49% compared to 2001.

Shootings: On pace to have a record low number of shootings in 2013 following a record low established in 2012.

Terrorism: Since 9/11, there has not been a successful terror attack against New York City, despite the city remaining a top terror target.

At the same time that Ray Kelly and the NYPD have brought crime to record lows, the Bloomberg Administration has actually reduced incarceration rates in New York City by 36% over the last twelve years.

This drop occurred as the national incarceration rate rose by 3% during the same period.

So during the last twelve years, the United States also saw crime declines, but it was achieved by locking more people up. But New York City didn’t reduce crime by locking more people up: in fact the City actually put fewer and fewer of its citizens behind bars as crime fell to record lows.

How? The crime prevention strategies implemented by the NYPD, and under the leadership of Deputy Mayor Gibbs, Commissioners Vincent Schiraldi, Dora Schriro and others the City have expanded use of felony drug courts, alternative-to-incarceration programs for substance abusers, expanded alternatives to jail sentences for misdemeanants, created more effective probation programs and implemented the Young Men’s Initiative, which is reducing increasing opportunities for young black and Latino men and reducing the number of young black and Latino men who are entering the criminal justice system.

The result? New York City is the safest it has ever been.


Lenard Neal said...

I was in NYC in Bushwick last year. It was utterly safe. I was stunned: the last time I had been in NYC was during the Crack Wars. NYC is the safest city anywhere. It was ridiculous. When I got back to Chicago? Oh my god. It was awful. The Stop-and-Frisk, I don't know. It's that most ephemeral of things: a 'deterrent'. How many people don't do something when they see someone else get busted for it? There is no way to quantify that. And that, right there, is what is now interesting me about your blog, and why I'm posting after reading your stuff for a long time: the manufacturing 'ethos' of 'Lean' is filtering into such non-Lean-able things and pursuits as healthcare and, incredibly, policing. How do you quantify what you prevented? Seriously: how do you prove to a superior that you were 'productive', when your job was simply to be a deterrent? The insidious whackery of such an idea starts being obvious if you think about it. I'll leave you to think bout it.

PCM said...

The short answer is you can't. Quantifying the unquantifiable is the $64,000 police question.

Until we figure out how to do the impossible, we need to trust our officers to act like professionals. You hire well. You train well. You have high standards. And you treat your workers like professionals.

And then you let them do their job. Mostly they will because police have professional pride.

When the don't, you bang them.

But if you treat your officers like lazy children, they are more willing to act like lazy children.

But I'm not convinced that stop and frisk does serve a deterrent. (or 80 percent of them). Look, it's hard to imagine that massive stop, question, and frisk isn't some kind of deterrent. But so far no evidence actually supports that conclusion.

Being a man of science and reason, as long as stop and frisk goes down and crime down, too. I have to assume that more stop and frisk isn't the answer. At best, we can say this: the stops that police stopped making were not the stops that stopped crime.

Lenard Neal said...

I read the New York Times about twice a week (they get it at my SBux in semi-rural WI; I am from the South Side of Chicago) and I read not too long ago that a lack of training and a culture of 'bad-assery' among NYC police was what really caused it to go bad. White cops from White Catholic areas, on camera, molesting and laughing at an Xtian Black kid coming home from Wednesday Night Church Service, pulling down his pants and and calling him a, I quote, "fucking hump"? For wearing 'street clothes'? When it should be obvious to the stupidest person alive that the kid, despite being an upright citizen, HAD TO dress the way his neighborhood thugs do to avoid being singled out and attacked? Bad business. I, personally think the Stop and Frisk in NYC has more to do with Bloomberg's Business Model than anything else. Quotas. And THAT is scary. And, it is not the same as Chicago's try at 'loitering', which, personally, I supported 1,000%. Fuck, 10,000%. And it got shot down by the ACLU.