NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


June 29, 2010

There was a predictable chorus of criticism from civil rights groups last month when the New York Police Department released its data on stop-and-frisk interactions for 2009, says Heather Mac Donald, a fellow at the Manhattan Institute and the author of "Are Cops Racist?" 

  • The department made 575,000 pedestrian stops last year.
  • Fifty-five percent involved blacks, even though blacks are only 23 percent of the city's population.
  • Whites, by contrast, were involved in 10 percent of all stops, though they make up 35 percent of the city's population.  

Such stops happen more frequently in minority neighborhoods because that is where the vast majority of violent crime occurs -- and thus where police presence is most intense, says Mac Donald: 

  • Based on reports filed by victims, blacks committed 66 percent of all violent crime in New York in 2009, including 80 percent of shootings and 71 percent of robberies.
  • Blacks and Hispanics together accounted for 98 percent of reported gun assaults. And the vast majority of the victims of violent crime were also members of minority groups.
  • Non-Hispanic whites, on the other hand, committed 5 percent of the city's violent crimes in 2009, 1.4 percent of all shootings and less than 5 percent of all robberies. 

Given these facts, the Police Department cannot direct its resources where they are most needed without generating racially disproportionate stop data, even though the department's tactics themselves are colorblind, says Mac Donald. 

The attack on the Police Department's stop-and-frisk data is based on the false premise that police activity should mirror census data, not crime.  If the critics get their way, it would strip police protection from the New Yorkers who need it most, says Mac Donald. 

Source: Heather Mac Donald, "Fighting Crime Where the Criminals Are," New York Times, June 25, 2010. 

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