NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly wrote an article in the Wall Street Journal defending the city’s Stop and Frisk program, but as Ta-Nehisi Coates points out, the math he uses is dubious at best. He tries to claim that the reductions in violent crime in New York are largely the result of that program.
There are a few problems with that argument. First, there is compelling evidence that the NYPD has been deliberately faking those numbers, downgrading crimes in order to make the stats look better. Second, violent crime has been going down all over the country, not just in NYC. And lastly, the Stop and Frisk program does almost nothing to stop it. Look at this chart from the Center for Constitutional Rights:
Contraband of all types are found in less than 2% of the stops. Knives and guns are found in 1.24% of the stops. And remember, these stops are based on the police officer having established a “reasonable suspicion” that the person they stop and frisk is breaking the law. If that turns out not to be true in over 90% of the cases, such suspicion clearly can’t be reasonable (forget about probable cause, which is the 4th Amendment standard that should be applied).
It should also be noted that whites are actually more likely to be found with contraband than blacks and Latinos. And yet 87% of all those stopped and frisked are black or Latino. The math here simply does not add up. It’s being used — misused, really — to justify a blatantly racist policy.
And here’s an important point: Even if those numbers did justify the program, it wouldn’t — or shouldn’t — matter. Even if it was a proven method of reducing crime, it’s still unconstitutional. I have no doubt that putting cameras in everyone’s homes would catch lots of people breaking the law that would otherwise not get caught, but no one would think that would justify doing so.