NYC Crime Story: Stop-and-Frisks Down, So is Murder

The police department says there are likely to be fewer than 300 homicides this year, compared with 2,245 in 1990. Stop-and-frisk encounters are down in six years from 685,724 to 12,404.

In 1990, there were 2,245 murders in New York City. This week, the police department said there are likely to be fewer than 300 in 2017. That is less than most years in the 1950s, when there were fewer people living in the city, writes New York Times columnist Jim Dwyer. During last year’s campaign, Donald Trump wrongly said that the city’s murder total was rising, and blamed it on a judge’s decision against the police stop-and-frisk tactic. More than 4 million innocent people were stopped and frisked between 2002 and 2012. Most were under 25, and the vast majority were black or Latino. The practice was scaled back beginning in 2012 by former Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

Today, the police still stop and search people, but the number of encounters has dropped by more than 98 percent since its peak in 2011, down to 12,404 in 2016, and the same pace this year. Six years ago, 685,724 were stopped and searched, 605,328 of whom had done nothing wrong, and many thousands who had done nothing worse than carry marijuana. Curtailing this approach did not make the city more dangerous, Dwyer says. In fact, the opposite happened. In the six years since police began cutting back on searches, murder has dropped by almost half. The department now puts its resources on  gangs that it sees as likely to be victims or perpetrators of crime, or both. The economy is booming. Jobs have grown for 90 straight months. “It’s wrong to say that the police are completely responsible for the murder decrease,” said police spokesman Stephen Davis. “It’s also wrong to say these other factors, like the economy, are the only reason.”