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Mayor Bloomberg Has Gall to Defend Stop-and-Frisk

Bloomberg credited stop-and-frisk with NYC's drop in teen gun carrying.
 
 
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A group of Muslim leaders on Friday boycotted an annual interreligious event held by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, pictured here on December 15, to protest alleged police spying on members of their community.

 

At a press conference yesterday, New York CIty Mayor Michael Bloomberg bragged about recently-released data showing that the rate of New York City teenagers who admit to carrying guns is the lowest in a decade. According to the Center for Disease Control, teens carrying guns in New York City has dropped 36 percent to an all-time low of 2.3 percent, which is less than half the overall national average of 5.1 percent. 

Bloomberg credited the controversial policing tactic stop-and-frisk, which has prompted the ongoing class-action lawsuit Floyd v. The City of New York, for the drop in handgun-carrying.  The 600% increase in police-initiated street stops has certainly affected the "higher-crime" neighborhoods targeted, but not necessarily in a way that redues actual shootings. Less than 1 percent of stops actually uncover a gun, and even if the tactic did inspire less gun carrying, it could signal more of a shift in where people keep their guns than their prevalence.

Over the past decade, as stop-and-frisk soared and the percentage of teens carrying guns dropped, the rate of shootings remained relatively the same. Youths may have reacted to the tactic by carrying guns in public less often, but that does not necessarily mean they are putting down their guns for good.

Last week, NY Senator Eric Adams testified in Floyd that NYPD Police Commissioner Ray Kelly told him stop-and-frisk is intended to instill fear in Black and Latino youths that they may be stopped by police every time they leave their homes.  Rather than discard their guns, shooting data suggests that teens who stopped carrying their weapons may have simply tucked them away in a dresser drawer, ready for use later.

Stop-and-frisk increased 600% under Bloomberg-- from 80,000 stops in 2002 to well over half a million stops annually in recent years --   but shooting rates have remained relatively the same (DNAinfo):

Plus, fewer than 1% of stops actually uncover guns, and increasing stops does not increase gun confiscations (NYCLU):

Nearly 9 out of 10 of people stopped are innocent of any crime, even though reasonable suspicion that a person is or is about to commit a crime is a mandatory prerequisite to a stop.

Meanwhile, the negative impact of a stop (which can occur almost daily for youths of color in some neighborhoods) has raised questions about whether the tactic used to uncover guns is even legal, let alone worth consequences affected youths liken to harassment and humiliation. Ninety percent of those stopped by the NYPD are Black or Latino, the majority of them youths. 

Testifying at the trial alleging that stop-and-frisk violates the 4th and 14th Amendment rights of black and Latino New Yorkers targeted, NYPD whistleblowers have alleged that illegal quotas, passed down from the highest ranks, force officers to make arbitrary, illegal stops and arrests (for mostly young, black and Latino men). And while the city is swearing its policing tactic has saved lives, residents affected by violence say the NYPD is taking its crime-fighting tactics too far, creating anger and resentment in the community instaed of a sense of safety. Targeting criminals, not skin color, say residents, would be a smarter approach. 

Kristen Gwynne is an associate editor and drug policy reporter at AlterNet.  Follow her on Twitter: @KristenGwynne

 
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