While the media does acknowledge that the violent crime rate was already in a downward spiral long before Bloomberg came into office seems to make no difference, Bloomberg, Kelley and their program are the reason for it. The fact that most of their arrests from this policy have nothing to do with violent crime does seem to matter they still indicate the program is working. The fact that a higher percentage of whites have been found carrying firearms than minorities does not seem to matter either they are still targeting minority areas. They are right because they say they are right.
Bloomberg and Kelley remind me of a police chief in a small town in North Carolina many years ago when I was teaching at East Carolina University. He had just taken over the chief’s job that year and was trying to impress the citizens with the good job he had done so far. His press release said that the year before there had been 3 homicides and only one had be solved by arrest, but during his tenure there had been only two homicides and both had been solved. One had to really dig for the real statistics to find out that the three homicides had been committed by one person, thus one arrest, and the two homicides were when two guys got into a shoot out in a bar and killed each other. The first one was a home invasion and the second happen in a bar, neither of which could have likely been prevented by police.
I am not writing this to oppose the concept of “stop and frisk” as, back in the day, I have used it myself many a time for my own protection when I was a police officer. That is the intent of the concept as defined in Terry v Ohio. In that case an officer saw two men acting suspiciously like they were planning a robbery so the officer approached them to question them. Considering them dangerous the officer “frisk” (a pat down of the outer garments) to check for weapons for his own protection. This is the use of a reasonable suspicion and a pat down of the outer garments for weapons. Since that 1967 decision the Supreme Court has become ever more loose with what might feel like a weapon through the outer garments. Who knows, a small baggie of marijuana might be a specialized garote.
The problem with the NYPD program is that they are focusing on minority neighborhoods because, as they say, that is where most of the crime occurs. Anyone with a pin map, much less a CAD (Computer Aided Dispatch) system can tell that. The question does arise, however, are the police using the “reasonable suspicion” standard or is anyone living in those areas automatically suspicious if there are a young Black or Hispanic male. But then, if the intent of the program is safety of the residents and reducing violent crime, why are the vast majority arrests for marijuana charges.
It sort of works like this. We want to catch edible fish out of two ponds. One pond has mainly trout and the other has catfish. If we want to catch catfish we are not going fish in the trout pond we are going to fish in the catfish pond. We might occasionally run across a trout that is visiting the catfish pond and we will check him, but we are really after the catfish. So, we fish in the catfish pond because we want catfish. If the police focus on only the minority areas and they perceive that young minority males are likely to be violent offenders then guess what? They are going to see a lot of likely violent offenders. The question is does that establish a reasonable suspicion?
According to the figures 88% of the NYPD stops were minorities while only 12% were White. Now if they were focusing only on getting guns off the street there would be more Whites arrested than Blacks or Hispanics. Whites with guns made up 1.4% of the population, Blacks 1.1%, and Hispanics 1.2%. But there is the rub. They were not just looking to curb violence but were looking to make arrests and since they were fishing in one target rich environment, guess who goes to jail more often?
One last point in reference to violent crime: the vast majority of violent crime is committed out of sight of the police. There is little, if anything, the police can do to prevent it. As it stands, 70 % of murders and assaults are acquaintance related and for rapes it is even higher. If it is not committed out in public, out of sight of the police, all they can do is respond to the call. Anyone with even a limited knowledge of criminology or criminal justice should know that, but I doubt that the mayor or the police commissioner have even read an introductory textbook on either.
There is a saying that I always used in teaching introductory courses in criminal justice. I don’t think I originated it but I am not sure where I got it either. It goes like this, “If you want absolute safety from crime I can give it to you. All you have to do is give me all of your freedom. I can lock everyone in a cage for the rest of your lives and there you will be secure from crime. The more freedom you want the more crime you risk having.” Emile Durkheim, a German sociologist once opined that “crime is the mark of a healthy society.” Of course Mayor Bloomberg probably never thought of that either. He doesn’t mind taking the security away from the thousands of innocent young minority men so he can say he is making himself and others feel safe.
No one is really served by taking security away from one group of people to make others feel better. Using the ruse of stopping people because they fit a profile of a violent offender, frisking them and arresting them for a drug charge, is simply wrong Mr. Mayor. You and your billionaire buddies need to be put up against a wall a few times to understand what its like so you will understand why it is wrong.
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