Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Stop and Frisk: Part I

I was watching the news the other day and there was a story on the number of killings in Chicago. The numbers are truly horrific with 259 murders in the first six months of 2012. There was a call by some for Chicago to enact a stop and frisk procedure like New York. Chicago is only one third the size of New York but New York has had "only" 193 murders during the same period. However, Chicago mayor Raum Emanuel has resisted calls for stop and frisk and New York's may vigorous defends the policy while currently being sued for racial profiling. Is it racial profiling? In Chicago. even though only 33 percent of the population is black 201 of the 259 killed were black. Moreover, 75 percent of those killed were males between 15-35, 143 were gang members and 133 of those had criminal records (see http://thenewamerican.com/usnews/crime/item/12217-chicago’s-murders-for-2012-likely-to-exceed-2011). As to New York, last year there were 686,000 stops and 80 percent were black or Latino. In May, a federal judge granted class-action status to a civil suit filed on behalf of people who were frisked on the streets and released. The judge, Shira A. Scheindlin, of Federal District Court in Manhattan, condemned what she called the city’s “deeply troubling apathy towards New Yorkers’ most fundamental constitutional rights” (see http://cityroom.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/05/16/judge-allows-class-action-status-in-stop-and-frisk-lawsuit/). New York's Mayor Bloomberg has justified the stops saying that it takes guns off the street and reduces crime. On the one hand, there seems to be an inverse relation between stops and gun seizures. In 2002, 4,069 guns were taken in 96,000 stops. During the first six months of this year 1,613 guns were seized on 337,434 stops (see http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/08/13/stop-and-frisks-arent-pulling-more-guns-off-new-york-city-streets-nypd-data-shows_n_1772197.html?utm_hp_ref=new-york). Yet on the other hand, the decrease in New York's murder rate actually ranks it as one of the safest American cities. Again, as in Chicago must of the murders were minority on minority with most killed being young males with gang affiliation. Thus, it is no surprise that the vast majority of those being stopped are minorities. The usual activists have charged racial profiling and can be ignored. What is important is to see what the black community thinks of the practice. Does it consider itself safer or does it feel targeted. Indeed, although there are always cases of innocent people dying in the shootings, more times than not it is some bad guy. Residents could even argue that they would be less safe if those 10,000 people had lived. What is instructive is that when there was a protest march against stop and frisk in New York in June, along with the usual suspects were religious groups and ordinary citizens. It is interesting that both New York and Chicago have very restrictive gun laws. In both cities, very few applicants can get a license and those that do have to go through a long, tedious and expensive procedure. The murder rates in the two cities show the futility of such restrictions. Again the bad guys get the guns but fortunately use them mainly on each other. The question is whether less restrictive gun laws will result in fewer murders. The answer is probably not however it may result in less crime. How is that? Well lawbiding citizens would be able to protect themselves against burglars and other criminal activities. However, it is doubtful if this would have any impact on the gang related violence. Nevertheless, the racial profile argument has some merit. Of the 686,000 stopped 93% of whom were males -- 54% were African-American, 33% were Hispanic, 9% were white and 3% were Asian. This is not surprising since most of the stops occur in minority neighborhoods. But note that only 5 percent were arrested. Thus it seems to me that New York should state that it is implementing a policy that will only stop those who exhibit suspicious behavior. This is similar to what El Al is said to do in the screening of passengers. Hum? Isn't this starting to sound like what some say should be the policy of the TSA?

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