A criminal justice institute, Vera, is trying to stir interest in its soon-to-be-released report on the subject.
I find Vera to be more calm, thoughtful and insightful than most of the entities that cover the topic.
New Study Explores the Experience of Stop and Frisk on Young People in Highly Patrolled Neighborhoods
New York City has seen a steady decline in its jail population as well as a dramatic decrease in its crime rate over the past two decades—phenomena that have intrigued criminologists and social science researchers who have tried to explain their causes. On the other hand, misdemeanor arrests have risen to record levels, and police interactions with city residents in the most heavily patrolled neighborhoods have soared since 2002 when the New York City Police Department (NYPD) instituted a preventive policing strategy that features stop, question, and frisk. Commonly known as stop and frisk, this technique permits a police officer who has reasonable suspicion that a person may be engaged in criminal activity to stop that person on the street, question him, and sometimes pat him down for contraband. In 2011 (the latest full year for which there is data) the NYPD conducted more than 685,000 stops, of which approximately 90 percent involved non-white suspects.
Whether and how stop and frisk is connected to the drop in crime is the subject of considerable attention in the media, by researchers, advocates, and the public. Proponents who support the use and scale of stop and frisk credit the technique for getting weapons off the streets and being an essential tool for law enforcement in making neighborhoods, especially high crime neighborhoods, safer. Those who oppose the practice argue that there is no proof that it increases public safety and considerable evidence that it leads to unconstitutional intrusions in the lives of those who have done nothing wrong as well as longer term harmful effects for this largely minority population.
Lacking in the debate is research about how residents of highly-patrolled communities experience stop and frisk. Do residents say they are safer because of the heavy police presence, or do they say they are more vulnerable to unjustified stops? Do they regard police conduct during stop-and-frisk interactions as respectful and fair, or do they claim their rights are being violated? What is the impact of the heavy police presence and high level of stop and frisk activity on individuals, their families, and communities?
To address these issues, the Vera Institute of Justice embarked in late 2011 on a multi-method study aimed at gathering evidence and analyzing how police stops affect the lives of young people living in neighborhoods with high police presence. Vera researchers are focused on five neighborhoods where the practice of stop, question, and frisk is used intensively: East New York; Bedford-Stuyvesant; East Harlem; the South Bronx; and Jamaica, Queens. The confluence of high police presence and comparatively high levels of violent crime make these neighborhoods particularly apt settings for a study of police-civilian relations, through the prism of residents’ experiences of fear and safety.
“While many people have concerns about the efficacy and fairness of stop and frisk, this study is trying to look at something different by gaining insight into whether and how the practice affects young people’s perceptions of procedural justice, safety, and police efficacy, and their sense of themselves as community members,” said Jennifer Fratello, associate research director of Vera’s Center on Youth Justice and the study’s principal investigator. “We hope it provides recommendations about ways that residents and police can work better in mutually beneficial ways.”
Using interviews and surveys, Vera researchers have gathered information in the five neighborhoods about residents’ personal experiences with the police and their attitudes toward safety, their fear of crime, and their view of law enforcement. By analyzing the data gathered from the people most affected by preventive policing and examining the intersection of these experiences and attitudes, the study aims to delineate the complex relationship between residents of these neighborhoods and the police. By looking more closely at these dynamics in each of the five study sites, the study will provide a more nuanced understanding of how police and residents in each community can work together to promote public safety in a way residents find both satisfying and effective.
Vera expects to release a report on the study’s findings in late spring.
For more information, contact Mary Crowley, director of communications. Phone: (212) 376-3172. E-mail: [email protected]