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Will Crime Increase Without Use Of Stop/Frisk?

  • Sam Mire
  • May 7, 2017 10:22AM

Stop and search. It’s not the policy which a federal judge ruled unconstitutional in August of 2013, fundamentally changing the way police operate in New York City and nationwide.

It is essentially the same thing, only Britain’s version. Importantly for Americans and New Yorkers specifically, the debate which resulted in the repeal of Britain’s stop and search policy virtually mirrors the same course of action that unfolded in America.

Unfortunately for Americans, the results of the repeal in Britain are in, and they are ugly.

Knife crimes in England have reached a five-year high in the first year since the stop and search practice was abolished. The shame is, this was predictable. It was preventable.

Those that lived in New York prior to Rudy Giuliani’s term as mayor witnessed the Big Apple transform from a crime-riddled metropolis to a reasonably safe city for its residents and tourists alike to explore. Finally, Central Park was safe to walk in at dusk.

The enforcement of petty crimes and, more importantly, the implementation of stop, question, and frisk policing resulted in a precipitous drop in crime. It fundamentally changed the city for the better.

Here is one former New York City police captain’s description of the nuances that go into legal stop, question and frisk inquiries:

“When I was a rookie 31 years ago, we were taught that police have a “common law right of inquiry,” meaning we could ask questions about almost anything we see on the street. But unless there were factors elevating a situation to reasonable suspicion that a crime has been or is about to be committed, a person could choose not to answer and walk away.

However, if the cop could articulate reasonable suspicion of a possible crime, he or she had the authority to stop someone and ask questions. Still, if based on the subject’s answers, the suspicion level did not escalate to probable cause for an arrest, the person would be released immediately.

This was only a “stop-and-question.” The “frisk” part of the equation did not come into play except on two occasions: First, if possession of a weapon was suspected. Second, if reasonable suspicion of a possible crime escalated to probable cause to arrest for an actual crime based on facts developed after the initial stop-and-question.”

The same former captain acknowledged that police departments began to keep detailed statistics on every stop and frisk encounter. This was due to the development of a widely-used record-keeping system developed in the 1990s known as CompStat. This system not only helped to keep detailed records on criminals, but also on the police themselves. In terms of stop and frisk, the meticulous records system allowed for a more accurate assessment of how police practices led to an increase in criminal arrests, and in turn the decrease in crime that would eventually result from such practices.

The fact is that criminals are acutely aware when police are in the vicinity, and they are more than happy to refrain from committing crime for the brief time in which 5-0 rolls onto the block. Therefore, a system that approaches crime more realistically, a system that is aimed at assessing suspicious behavior and the likelihood that criminal activity either occurred or will occur, is necessary to effectively police.

The statistics which resulted from the development of CompStat led to an irrefutable conclusion: stop, question and frisk led to a dramatic reduction in crime.