A Question of Justice: NYPD ‘Stop-and-Frisks’ Down First Quarter of 2013

Submitted by Elizabeth Renter

The NYPD makes no bones about their tactic. They call it crime prevention, we call it racist violation of constitutional rights. But their “stop-and-frisk” tactics have declined for the first time in several years, raising the question – is the NYPD ready to give up this practice of criminalizing people based solely on their location and likely their race?

According to the Wall Street Journal, stop-and-frisks are down over 50 percent for the first quarter of 2013, when compared with 2012. It comes at an interesting time, as the city is facing a federal lawsuit for their employment of these practices.
The lawsuit was filed on behalf of several people who were victims of the stops. In case you’re unaware of the tactic, a stop-and-frisk is when a cop sees you in a high-crime neighborhood and uses this, paired with any other loose justification, to assume you may have committed or may be about to commit a crime. The officer then detains you on the street and may frisk you or pat you down.

The stop-and-frisk approach is largely used by rookies operating in the Operation Impact program, which sends a large amount of uniformed officers into high crime neighborhoods to sort of make their presence known. If the stops were made because there was good evidence of an impending crime, it might not be so bad. But officers are using the mere reputation of neighborhood and things like clothing or loitering as evidence to justify a search. As you well may imagine, they are doing it en masse to black and Latino men.

In 2002, for instance, 85 percent of those stopped were Latino or black, and 90 percent were released without criminal charge or arrest. What does that mean? That 90 percent had done nothing wrong. This is the crux of the lawsuit. So, why are stop-and-frisks down? Ask the NYPD and they will tell you it’s a staffing issue or a training situation. Still, the lawsuit certainly can’t be ignored, and there’s a good chance that the department is quietly backing off.

Most interesting about the drop in stop-and-frisks, however, is that it comes at the same time as a drop in crime rates. Crime in the city is down 2.7 percent during the first quarter of 2013, and murders are down 30 percent. What this says is that stop-and-frisks may not have the amazing impact that the city wants you to believe. In fact, it seems, the dropping crime rate has nothing to do with the use of stop-and-frisk tactics.

So, if stop-and-frisk does not reduce crime, what does it do?

Generally, stopping people without solid justification and doing so in significantly racially-disproportionate numbers does nothing but widen the rift between a community and the police. It does nothing but justify the bitter distrust held by many people within the city. From the NYPD’s perspective, it likely serves to keep people “in their place.”

This post was originally blogged on, the personal justice blog of freelance writer Elizabeth Renter. You can contact Ms. Renter through her blog or her website:


  • Common Sense

    What you leave out of your percentages is the number of blacks and latinos that commit the crimes.

    Maybe if the author resided in Cliffside Park or Brooklyn I would give the generic article more credit.


  • Keith

    What you leave out(CS) is what percentage of those frisked had their constitutional rights usurped. Oh yeah, forget it, that 100%, no need to be redundant.

  • RadicalDude

    Evidence to what I have said before: lawsuits are one of the most effective means to hold the authoritarian gangsters accountable. If you want to hold cops accountable, you have to learn how to effectively fight them in court. If Ademo had sued Ed Burke when Burke falsely accused Ademo(slander) of threatening him(which directly led to the false arrest/false imprisonment), I doubt Burke would be messing w/ any of these cop blockers nowadays.

  • YankeeFan

    The issue isn’t crimes rates based on ethnicity, it is the police using a highly questionable tactic. Police need to have RS to initiate a stop and skin colour, regardless of crimes rates for that particular persons colour, isn’t RS. Just like RS isn’t, I don’t know if you are felon who can’t legally carry a weapon. I get certain ethnicities may have higher crimes rates but that is not relevant to the legal standard of RS I know it’s low but it has to be more than a hunch

  • certain

    Well, common sense that doesn’t have any, maybe he left it out because those areas are predominantly populated by black and Hispanics, so to throw out a “crimes committed by race statistic” would be hugely misleading. But if you had any of your namesake, you’d have already figured that out for yourself.

  • Common Sense

    If the police patrol and mostly black neighborhood – tell me what racial class will make up the majority if arrestees?

    That’s why the liberal argument fails. It’s catchy, gets headlines, but means nothing with countered with additional information.

    A+ for effort though.

  • YankeeFan

    Common Sense,

    Once again, that has nothing to do with illegal stops. You can’t stop someone baaed on skin colour. I don’t care if it is 95% black or Hispanic. You need RS, by the legal definition to stop someone.

  • YankeeFan

    I get you want to take the argument away from the topic of “stop and frisk” and talk about the % of ethnic makeup in these neighborhoods but that’s a different topic than discussing the legality of stop and frisk, which is getting a lot of scrutiny. I don’t care what the % of that neighborhoods ethnic make up is. Make stops based on RS and no one complains.

    C-for trying to divert the conversation away by using ethnic %.

  • YankeeFan

    By the way, I have no issues with programs that are aimed at stopping violence/crime if done legally. I am not an ends justifies the means type of person. I support D.U.I. checkpoints, I support stop and frisk if done legally. I support anything that curbs violence but not at the expense of persons rights.

  • Common Sense

    The article is based solely on race.

    ‘Stop and frisk’ is based in many factors left out of the singularly focused article.

  • YankeeFan

    Common sense,

    I do not want to make it like I am disagreeing with you at all. I know all too well that those areas are high crime and it goes without saying that a majority of those arrested are going to be that ethnicity. As far as the Liberal label, I never discuss my views but ill give you this hint as to what mine are. If I could, I would marry Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter tomorrow, Atilla The Hun would be envious of my political views.

    If I misunderstood what you were getting at, I apologize. My only take was “Stop and Frisk” shouldn’t be based on race regardless of crime rates with those particular ethnicities.

  • Common Sense

    I think my main issue with this topic is that the media rarely details the whole interaction with the police. It just focuses on the assumption that race is the sole factor in stops.

    Stop and frisk has been in NYC for decades but usually only surfaces during election cycles.

  • RadicalDude

    Basically, if they can’t articulate specific facts that would lead a reasonable minded person to RS that someone is committing a crime and is armed and dangerous, then a frisk is a tortious criminal battery. Saying someone looked “suspicious” does not justify putting your hands on someone, whether you’re a cop or not. Look up a case called Terry v Ohio.

  • YankeeFan

    Common Sense,

    That is the hard part about this site, incomplete articles, edited videos and etc.

    As far as this being in NYC for a long time, it has. When the topic appeared on policeone, several cops responded and a few comments were interesting. One poster said he doesn’t understand why people get all bent. Growing up, he said, we would hang out with friends in the street or on a corner listening to music and it wasn’t uncommon for the police to show up and search our car while frisking us and we didn’t go crying to some lawyer about it. The only thing I thought was, THANK YOU for being the poster child for why programs like this are bad when misused. Hanging out isn’t an illegal or suspicious activity but so many law abiding people are being put through the ringers based only on a police officers whim.

  • steve


  • CinnamonD

    It’s Stop, question and possibly frisk by the way. Why should I believe anything in this biased article if they can’t even get that right.?