Amid recent noise about New York City's controversial "stop and frisk" policy, Reuters had done a deep dive into five years of worth of police data to see where (and to whom) the vast majority of searches take place. Unsurprisingly, police concentrate their efforts in the neighborhoods with the highest crime rates — which also happen to be the neighborhoods with the poorest and largely minority residents. Yet, even accounting for the excess violence in those areas, streets stops far outweigh the average for other neighborhoods.
For example, Precinct 73 in Brownsville, Brooklyn, saw the second highest rate of violent crime in the city last year, with 14.1 violent crimes per 1,000 residents. The more affluent Park Slope has one of the lowest, at 4.1 crimes per 1,000 residents. That's a rate about three times lower than the rate in Brownsville. Yet, the rate of stops in Brownsville was 572 per 1,000 residents, which is 16 times higher than the rate in Park Slope.
The stops also tend to be heavily concentrated in public housing projects, even inside the buildings themselves, where police patrols include walking the floors and stairwells. Many residents (who are much poorer than the average New Yorker and overwhelmingly black and Latino) approve of the added police presence, but others complain about being harassed by cops simply for taking out the garbage. Having police so closely monitoring your home creates a dangerous level of animosity between cops and the people they are there to protect. Since some of the Brownsville are kids and old people who almost never get stopped, that aggressively high rate means most young, black men in the area are stopped several times a year. And arrests often meaning handcuffing and hauling away people in front of their families.
The NYPD continues to defend the practice of "stop and frisk" saying it is a necessary tool that must be deployed in high crime areas. And it must be given some credit for the city's plummeting crime rates over the last twenty years. But many still question the way searches are handled, with police coming into their hallways, stopping the same people multiple times, and challenging a person trying to move around their own building. Yet, when one-in-five murders continues to take place on the grounds of public housing and one-in-four guns are seized there, its easy to see why the police have become so aggressive. The challenge for the police department now is to keep up the heavy patrols, while winning back citizens who are tired of feeling like perpetual suspects.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.