Public Advocate Bill De Blasio launched a campaign last week aimed at reducing the number of stop and frisks conducted by the NYPD, but the mayor continues to defend the policy, praising it as highly effective at fighting crime in the city, despite the rifts it may cause.
Calling it a “broken” policy, de Blasio, along with members of the City Council, called on Mayor Michael Bloomberg to issue an Executive Order dramatically reducing the number of unwarranted stops.
“The only way this can be effective is by using assertive techniques with community cooperation,” de Blasio said in a conference call with reporters on Thursday. “We want to improve relations between the police and the community.”
De Blasio doesn’t deny that the stop and frisk policy is a proven crime-fighting strategy, but he claims it is not being used in the right measure.
The public advocate is calling on the city to use the CompStat method, normally used to track crime at each local precinct, to track unwarranted stops and hold each commanding officer of each precinct accountable for stops performed.
“The bottom line is that CompStat is a proven crime-fighting technology,” he said. “It helps us create accountability and stay focused. We can use the system to figure out the right amount of stop and frisks needed.”
Highlighting the rift between minority communities and the police, de Blasio said the policy is being misused and is making New Yorkers feel less safe.
He said that the new method would not put any pressure on commanding officers to have a certain number of stop and frisks.
De Blasio’s campaign announcement comes on the heels new figures released by the New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU), figures which they say demonstrate the decreasing effectiveness of stop and frisk tactics. According to the NYCLU, in 2003, the NYPD stopped 266 New Yorkers for every gun recovered. In 2011, the NYPD stopped 879 New Yorkers and recovered a single gun.
NYPD police officers stopped more than 200,000 people under its stop and frisk program in the first three months of 2012. Last year, the number of total stops reached 685,724.
Through the campaign, a citywide petition drive will be conducted online and in subway stations across the city, focusing on neighborhoods with excessive numbers of unwarranted stops.
De Blasio also envisions resolutions being pushed at community boards and civic groups, calling on Mayor Bloomberg to dramatically reduce unwarranted stops.
The Web site, BloombergActNow.com, has a petition to Bloomberg and Stop and Frisk data for individual neighborhoods.
De Blasio is also calling for more police even though the NYPD has shrunk to its smallest size since 1992, and more money for after-school programs, which he says will help to keep youth off the streets during peak hours for juvenile crime.
De Blasio’s campaign is supported by elected officials such as Councilman Jumaane Williams and State Senator Daniel Squadron, who both say that the stop and frisk policy creates a hostile climate between black and Latino communities and the police.
“He’s turning a blind eye and doesn’t even acknowledge that there’s a concern around the city,” de Blasio told reporters. “It proves how out of touch he is.”
But the mayor continues to defend the program, saying that is has saved many lives by taking thousands of illegal guns off the streets.
He blasted the NYCLU’s findings, stressing at a recent press conference that the number of stops being greater than the number of guns recovered is a sign of progress.
“That’s the point, they don’t get it. Stops are a deterrent, they prevent people from carrying a gun in the first place. It’s the same reason we set up DWI stop points,” he said. “This city used to be one of the crime capitals of the United States, we used to have more than 2,000 murders a year. Over the past 10 years we have cut crime another 35 percent and murders are at an all-time low.”
The mayor said that there are 5,600 fewer murders in the last decade than in the decade before.
“That’s 5,600 men and women that are alive today who would not be and incidentally from the data, 90 percent of the murder victims in this city are black or Hispanic,” he said. “And that’s something that we really have to focus on.”
Calling the policy “simple,” he stressed that those who think they will be stopped on the street are “a lot less likely to carry a gun.”
“I understand that not every stop produces a gun and some produce some hard feelings,” he said. “But we are just not going to walk away from a strategy that has made us the safest big city in the country.”