“The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”
Stop and frisk is a policy with widespread conservative support. When it was implemented in New York City, many on the right believed it would drastically lower the rate of crime while keeping criminals off the streets.
President Donald Trump suggested that Chicago’s law enforcement agencies should implement the policy. He tweeted: “Chicago is a shooting disaster-they should immediately go to STOP AND FRISK. They have no choice, hundreds of lives would be saved!”
But is this true? Is stop and frisk a viable solution to the rampant crime plaguing cities like Chicago? The statistics suggest otherwise.
Does Stop and Frisk Work?
While many on the right argue that stop and frisk was effective in curtailing crime in New York City, the facts on the ground show something much different. For starters, during the years when the program was active, law enforcement officers conducted 4.43 million stops. Nearly 90% of these stops uncovered no criminal activity and did not result in an arrest. This means that the Fourth Amendment rights of hundreds of thousands of people were unjustifiably violated.
When New York City shut down the stop and frisk program, many conservatives believed the crime rate would increase, but the opposite occurred. Since the program was terminated, the crime rate has fallen remarkably.
In 2014, the city had 333 homicides, a significant decrease from the previous year. In 2017, the overall crime rate decreased by 6% from 2016. Homicides fell by 12% in the same year.
These statistics make it difficult to argue that stop and frisk was an effective crime prevention strategy. Put simply, stop and frisk did not make a noticeable difference in the crime rate. Indeed, the drop in the city’s crime rate is the result of other programs implemented by New York City law enforcement.
How Did New York City Lower Their Crime Rate?
Over the past decade, New York City has implemented various methods designed to reduce crime. These new strategies, while not perfect, have proven to be effective solutions. One of the most helpful tools is the CompStat system.
CompStat has provided law enforcement agencies across the country with a tool that allows them to collect information on crime and quality of life in different areas of their cities. It helps the police collect and analyze important data, allowing officers to be deployed more effectively. In New York, it has helped law enforcement cut crime by 70%.
Under police commissioner James O’ Neill, the NYPD has implemented multiple reforms that have made the department more effective. Through neighborhood policing programs, they have worked to build trust with the communities they serve. Task forces dedicated to gang activity are focusing on sensitive areas in the city. Moreover, officers are receiving more training.
What About the Fourth Amendment?
The Fourth Amendment was written to protect citizens from abuse by government officials. It prevents law enforcement from harassing and targeting citizens without justification. Stop and frisk appears to be a brazen violation of the Fourth Amendment, which is why the courts have ruled against the policy. Conservatives, who typically have a deep appreciation for the Constitution should be alarmed that such a program could even exist.
Stop and frisk is more than just unconstitutional — it is unnecessary. As stated previously, the statistics show that the program does not curtail crime. Instead, it allows police officers to violate the rights of citizens without cause. There are far more effective ways to curb criminal activity. Indeed, over the past year, the national crime rate has decreased without the use of such measures.
It is essential that those who value liberty oppose programs such as stop and frisk. This is not what the nation’s founders would have wanted, nor is it desirable for individuals who are leery of the state. Giving up our rights for a veneer of security will eventually strip us of both freedom and security.