Word last Friday that the number of “stop-and-frisk” incidents in New York City dropped by more than 30% in the second quarter of 2012 (see chart here) suggests that the attention and activism opposing the practice is having an impact -or at least a relative impact. According to NYPD chief spokesman, Paul Browne, there were 203,500 stops in January, February and March this year, and only 133,934 in April, May and June.
New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly insists that the drop is actually the result of changes to the Operation Impact program. Operation Impact involves sending extra police to high crime neighborhoods with the expectation that increased policing (often in the form of stop-and-frisk) will lead to decreased crime.
But anecdotal reports from police (see the NYTimes link above, or WNYC reporting here) describe a change in regard for the practice throughout the NYPD -not necessarily sympathetic to complaints, but aware of a sudden drop in priority of the tactic, as well as potential legal risk.
The thing to look for next will be whether there is a corresponding rise in crime that would been prevented by stops. So far there’s no indication of such a correspondence. In fact, the lack of correlation between crime, particularly murders and gun crimes, and stops has been at the root of criticism of stop-and-frisk (pdf) (along with the racial disparity (pdf)). Last month WNYC raised eyebrows with the map below, showing the locations of stops and the locations of recovered guns. The locations of the stops are very specific and no-doubt align with the targets of Operaion Impact, but they plainly don’t align with getting guns off the streets.
While I’m on the subject of stop-and-frisk, I’d like to point out that our recent segment with Melissa Harris-Perry on this subject included footage from All Things Harlem, for which we are very appreciative.