The Lasting Effects of Stop-and-Frisk in Bloomberg’s New York

PISC Internal Advisory Board Member John MacDonald's research into the effects of local police surges on crime and arrests in New York City was highlighted in a recently published article in the New York Times. With recent attention drawn to the heavy usage of stop-and-frisk policing during former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg's administration, the effects of this policy are also being brought to light. Evidence has emerged of the harms created by this strategy including a greater likelihood of struggling in school, experiencing symptoms of anxiety and depression, and retreating from civic life. Dr. MacDonald's research suggests that the vast majority of street stops at the height of stop-and-frisk weren’t particularly helpful in fighting crime. Few of these stops led to arrests or uncovered weapons.

The major issue of stop-and-frisk was the number of unproductive stops. For every 100 probable cause stops a month there were only 3 fewer crimes. “Who’s being affected by that?” Dr. MacDonald asked. “It’s going to be people who, for example, may be likely voters, who are trying to go to school, who are afraid because they normally wouldn’t have interactions with police that are intrusive. That’s not your average offender. That’s your average citizen.” This group of people were disproportionately Black and Hispanic in New York; the effects of stop-and-frisk didn’t end after individual police encounters, or with an ease in the policy.

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