As Mayor Bloomberg’s tenure comes to an end, the troubling stop-and-frisk policy of the New York Police Department will be remembered as one of his administration’s most controversial legacies. A few months ago, Judge Shira Scheindlin, in a historic ruling, stated that the NYPD’s policy violated the Fourth Amendment’s protection against unreasonable searches as well as the Fourteenth Amendment’s guarantee of equal protection under the law for all American citizens. In her opinion, she found that the evidence on the nature of stops pointed to a pattern of “racial profiling” carried out by the NYPD and approved at the highest levels.

Judge Scheindlin cited studies conducted by Dr. Jeffrey Fagan of Columbia University on the nature of stops by the police, race, neighborhood, and type of crime from 2004 to 2012 in New York. More than 4.4 million stops were recorded during this time with the most frequent stops recorded in Brooklyn (Kings County). Stops were typically the highest in the first quarter of each year, more than half of the persons stopped were black (51.9 percent) and about one in three (32 percent) were Hispanic. Whites (9.13 percent) and Other race/ethnicity (6 percent) were stopped far less.

Other demographic patterns that emerged from Dr. Fagan’s study: nearly 3 stops in four were among persons aged 16-34; males accounted for more than 9 in 10 stops. Black and Hispanic suspects were stopped over 50 percent more often on the suspicion of violent offenses and were twice as often suspected of carrying weapons and trespassing. Whites were about four times more likely to be stopped for Quality of Life offenses. Stop-and-frisk tactics by the police occurred most frequently in neighborhoods with high black and Hispanic residents and where crime rates were high. Fagan’s study suggests that the disparate treatment by the police could be a result of “over-policing” in the most racially segregated neighborhoods with high minority populations or “underpolicing” in neighborhoods with low minority concentrations.

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s new report analyzed 2.4 million stops and 150,000 arrests between 2009 and 2013 and found that only 1.5 percent of all stops led to a conviction for a crime of violence and 0.1 percent of all stops led to a conviction for possession of a weapon. Almost one-quarter of arrests were dismissed or resulted in a non-criminal charge. According to the report, “Racial disparities are evident not only in the identities of those arrested but also in disposition and sentencing.” The report shows one-half of all stop-and-frisk arrests are black, almost one-third are Hispanics, and one-in-ten are white.

In addition to the unconstitutional nature of the policy, another key question that has emerged in the debates is whether the NYPD’s specific practice of stop-and-frisk has been effective in deterring crime or lowering the crime rate as opposed to larger and more general strategies of community policing and gun control policies that have been in effect since the early 1990s. There have been some recent studies exploring the link between stop-and-frisk policies and crime rate.  One such study, an unpublished paper by Dennis Smith of NYU and Robert Purtell of SUNY Albany — summarized here —  found that stops had an effect on some crimes (burglaries and robberies) but not on others (rape, assault).

However, there are serious methodological problems with this study; it does not control for a critical factor like the socioeconomic status of the residents studied. Another study by Richard Rosenfeld of the University of Missouri, Saint Louis controlled for socioeconomic factors and reported that there was no evidence supporting the link between stop-and-frisk policies and a decrease in crime rate.

Finally, a third study by David Weisburd at Hebrew University analyzed the location of where stop-and-frisk policies mostly occur to determine whether this is part of a general “hot spots” policing strategy. The study does not necessarily say anything about the impact of this particular kind of policing in neighborhood “hot spots, and the authors conclude their study arguing that relying on this kind of policing will have “unintended negative consequences”, given the policy’s disproportionate attention on young men from minority communities.

Recent findings from the Vera Institute, a non-partisan research organization, confirm this negative community impact. In a survey of 500 people aged 18-24 in highly patrolled communities in New York, 88 percent said residents in their neighborhood don’t trust the police while 59 percent reported that they would not go to the police even if they were the victim of a violent crime. NYPD’s own statistics show that 95 percent of shooting victims are black or Hispanic who also represent 87 percent of all murder victims.

Policing and controlling crime are high on mayor-elect Bill de Blasio’s agenda. It is entirely possible to have a combined strategy of aggressive gun control laws and an effective police presence in neighborhoods across the city, as well as a public debate on how communities living in New York’s crime “hot spots” can take back their streets by working cooperatively with law enforcement. One can only hope that the corrosive strategy during Mayor Bloomberg’s administration of targeting young black and Hispanic men living in poor neighborhoods in this city in an effort to reduce crime is now a thing of the past.

Share your views on how Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio should address crime in New York by joining us tonight at Roosevelt House for a timely discussion on Stop and Frisk in New York City: What’s Next? You can also catch the discussion on LiveStream. Follow me on Twitter: @DrSVenkateswar,  and engage with the Public Policy Program on social media, Like P-Cubed at Roosevelt House on Facebook and follow @PcubedatRH on Twitter.

Best wishes,