NY Post’s Stop-and-Frisk Scare

nypost-frisk-coverMost days it’s a good idea to ignore whatever it is the right-wing New York Post tabloid is putting on their cover. But when it’s suggesting New York City is seeing the beginning of a scary crime wave, curiosity gets the better of you. 

Turns out (surprise!) the Post is mostly full of it. 

Their story is that the Bloomberg-era stop-and-frisk law enforcement policies have been curtailed due to the recent court ruling that the stops violate the constitutional rights of the innocent mostly people of color who are targeted. The Murdoch-owned Post leads with this:

New Yorkers–duck!

Since Manhattan federal Judge Shira Scheindlin ruled the NYPD’s use of stop-and-frisk was unconstitutional three months ago, city cops have made nearly 12 percent fewer gun seizures.

 Get it? You’re more likely to get shot, the Post seems to be telling New Yorkers (and anyone unfortunate enough to be in the city). The police are seizing fewer guns, so there must be more guns on the streets–hence the cover headline, “Return of the Guns.” 

But there are several problems. 

For starters, seizing fewer guns doesn’t mean there are more guns on the streets. It could mean there are simply fewer guns to find–which would be good news, not cause for concern.  And overall gun seizures declined during the Bloomberg years, when stop-and-frisk exploded. 

More importantly, it’s problematic to link stop-and-frisk to gun seizures at all, since so few guns were ever seized (New York Civil Liberties Union). In 2003, when the policy accelerated, there were 604 guns taken in 160,851 stops–a success rate of 0.3 percent. By 2011, there were 685,724 stops–and only 780 guns were found, meaning that guns were not found in 99.9 percent of all stops. 

And stop-and-frisk is a relatively minor way that the NYPD gets guns off the street–in 2011, a typical year, 77 percent of illegal guns recovered by the police were found by other means (DNAinfo, 8/13/12).

The Post looked at how this not terribly effective policy operated over a  rather small window–from August 19 to November 3–to try and portray a more dangerous city. 

But even in the New York Post, some facts can creep into a discussion. The paper admits:

Still, overall, serious crimes are way down in the Big Apple so far this year compared with the same period last year. Murders are at an all-time low, with 248 so far this year. And shootings to date have plummeted nearly 22 percent.

The latest statistics on stop-and-frisk indicate cops were already reining in their use of the practice, too.

The number of NYPD stops from July through September, the latest stats available, decreased more than 50 percent from the previous year. That came amid a months-long downward trend.

Did you catch that? The New York Police Department has been seriously curtailing the practice of stop and frisk for months now–and the crime rate is, in the Post‘s words, “way down.” Now that’s a story–just not the one a paper like the New York Post wants to report. 


About Peter Hart

Activism Director and and Co-producer of CounterSpinPeter Hart is the activism director at FAIR. He writes for FAIR's magazine Extra! and is also a co-host and producer of FAIR's syndicated radio show CounterSpin. He is the author of The Oh Really? Factor: Unspinning Fox News Channel's Bill O'Reilly (Seven Stories Press, 2003). Hart has been interviewed by a number of media outlets, including NBC Nightly News, Fox News Channel's O'Reilly Factor, the Los Angeles Times, Newsday and the Associated Press. He has also appeared on Showtime and in the movie Outfoxed. Follow Peter on Twitter at @peterfhart.