Let’s compare the correct apples

“There have been no randomized, controlled experiments to test the efficacy of “stop and frisk.” It is possible, however, to compare New York’s record in lowering crime with that of other cities that do not practice its proactive style of policing.

“The New York Police Department’s critics favor High Point, N.C., Boston and Chicago as models the department should emulate. Boston’s crime rate is 4,107 crimes per 100,000 residents; High Point’s is 5,212 per 100,000 residents; New York’s is 2,257 per 100,000 residents. In 2010, Chicago’s murder rate was more than double that of New York.”

Heather MacDonald, one of the country’s  most articulate voices on police policy made the above assertions in today’s NY Times, in a defense of NYPD’s “stop and frisk” policy. She is also, in Boston slang, wicked smart.

For the record, the apples I believe Heather should compare are rates of violent crime, rather than all so-called Part One Crimes reported to the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report, since that’s what is at issue in the debate.  I also wish NYPD were not so opaque about the objectives of the practice that has become known as “stop and frisk.” But I would wager that in any case burglary, larceny, auto theft and arson are not crimes they aim to affect.

Of the cities Heather cites, New York and High Point NC in 2010 experienced nearly identical rates of violent crime, 6 per 1,000 people, according to the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report (UCR). (High Point’s 5.7 was slightly lower than NYC’s 5.8.)  In the same year Boston experienced about 9 reported violent offenses per 1,000 people.  You can’t compare Chicago because they do not define and report rapes in way that is acceptable to the UCR/FBI.

Also, NYPD leaders and line personnel are smart, talented professionals dedicated to improving life for everyone in New York.  As the late Jack Maple use to remind us, the reduced crime numbers represent a lot of people who because of the police are alive or whose lives have not been permanently altered for the worse.  Surely there is much more richness and complexity to the NYPD’s strategy than doing field interrogations of people in crime hot spots.

Finally, and by the way, arguing that a stop is justified solely on the basis of geography is an argument that is both unconstitutional and a backdoor blaming of the victims.


About stephenomeara

My name is Jim Jordan. I have had the privilege of working with the Boston Police Department and hundreds more departments over my nearly 30-year career in police administration and city government. I am now teaching and consulting independently at www.sergeantsleadership.org. I have learned the best of what I know from the thousands of smart, dedicated and ethical police personnel and scholars who have guided me along the way. My address is named for the great Reform commissioner of the Boston Police at the turn of the 20th century. Commissioner O'Meara died just a short while before the Strike in 1919. He was replaced by a vicious puppet (of Gov. Coolidge) named Edwin U. Curtis. Had O'Meara lived events may have turned out quite differently.
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