A teenager who was caught with a gun during a stop and frisk in the Bronx in 2010 had his conviction overturned by an appeals court, infuriating the Bloomberg administration. Darryl Craig, 14, had been sentenced to 18 months’ probation, but yesterday the appeals court ruled that the cop had no legal grounds for the search. It just so happens that three months after that arrest, Craig allegedly used another gun to shoot a gang rival in Queens. Now NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly and his house organ the NY Post are up in arms, as is Mayor Bloomberg, who was asked about the appeals court decision at the McCarren Park Pool ribbon-cutting today.
"It was a loaded gun," Bloomberg incredulously told reporters in response to a question about the appeal. "Are you supposed to give the kid a flower and send him on his way, tell him to go out and kill someone? I don't know what these three judges were thinking." Today the Post has two articles on the decision, which is being framed as some sort of emblematic lesson about the virtues of stop and frisk and the recklessness of those who criticize the policy. Commissioner Kelly has an op-ed in the tabloid, in which he writes:
The decision by the Appellate Division to dismiss the case against a teenager in possession of a loaded semiautomatic gun may be as dangerous as the weapon itself. In the court’s opinion, the situation did not support the officer’s actions. Yet he rightly observed and questioned a youth who actually had a gun, and it was recovered. Loaded...
There were 5,430 murders in New York City in the last decade, compared to 11,058 the decade before. That’s 5,628 lives saved. Police recovered 8,263 weapons in stops in 2011, but some say that isn’t sufficient. If fewer people are carrying guns because of police stops, we’ll take it. Through necessary enforcement — of which stops are one element — we are doing everything we can to ensure that more citizens don’t face the barrel of a gun, as the officers shot this year have had to do.
It's worth pointing out that the declining murder rate in NYC over the past decade and beyond corresponds to a widespread drop in violent crime nationwide. And there's no proof that the dramatic increase in stop-and-frisk during the Bloomberg administration has anything to do with it. Kelly and Bloomberg consistently frame the stop-and-frisk debate in stark terms: either the NYPD violates the civil rights with this arguably racist policy, or NYC returns to the "bad old days."
But stop-and-frisk critics say the NYPD would fight crime more effectively with fewer stops, and studies show other police departments having success with "focused deterrence," in which police officers thoroughly investigate and prosecute those most responsible for violent crime in a particular neighborhood, instead of blindly frisking larger groups. One study by the Yale law department highlighted a particular incident in 2004, in which the method was used to combat drug-related crimes in a low-income neighborhood in North Carolina:
Rather than sweep through and stop large numbers of young black men, the police built strong relationships with residents, promising greater responsiveness if they took back the reins of their community and told their sons, nephews and grandsons that the violence and the over dealing must end. Meanwhile, the police identified the 17 mean driving the drug market and built solid cases against each. In one fell swoop, they arrested three with violent records...The city's most significant drug market vanished overnight, and it has not come back.
And while the NYPD insists that stop-and-frisk is the best way to get guns off the street, the department's own data shows that of the 685,724 stops in 2011, only 1.9 percent resulted in the recovery of a weapon. And while blacks and Latinos were far more likely to be stopped, whites were almost twice as likely to be found carrying a weapon.
“Conflating unlawful stop-and-frisks with getting guns off of the streets just doesn’t add up,” says NYCLUE Executive Director Donna Lieberman. “The NYPD got nearly as many guns off the street last year with 700,000 stops as it did in 2003 with 160,000 stops. Doesn’t the NYPD know or care about the laws of diminishing returns? Or the Constitution, for that matter.”
But never mind facts, the choice is simple: Either cops indiscriminately stop and frisk increasingly large swaths of black and Latino New Yorkers, or they give flowers to gun-packing gangbangers!