By Anthony M. DeStefano
NEW YORK — The number of stop-and-frisk encounters by New York City police dropped sharply in the first three months of the year, plummeting nearly 86 percent from the first quarter of 2013, according to NYPD statistics obtained by Newsday.
Police recorded 14,261 stops from Jan. 1 to March 31, compared with 99,788 in the same period of 2013.
In the face of reduced stops, police also have confiscated 68 percent fewer weapons in the quarter when compared with the same period a year earlier.
Stops increased 14 percent under new NYPD Commissioner William Bratton, who has made reform of the contested practice a key part of his agenda, compared with the final quarter of predecessor Ray Kelly's tenure, when the department recorded 12,495 stops.
Bratton recently said that even with the decline in stops from a year earlier, crime has continued to fall, including homicides. Serious crimes were down 2.2 percent in the first three months of 2014 from the year-earlier period.
"My belief is the significant reduction in stop, question and frisk activity on the part of members of the department has not had an impact on crime, and the crime numbers continue to remain low, very low by national standards, and even low by New York standards," Bratton said in a news conference last week when asked about crime trends.
But at a time when stops and crime rate have been trending lower, shooting incidents have increased in New York, rising by 2.7 percent this year through Sunday, NYPD data show.
"The bad guys know the cops are not going to stop them," former NYPD Detective Sgt. Joseph Giacalone, who now lectures on police tactics, said about gang members carrying weapons.
Since 2011, when police recorded 686,000 stops, the activity has declined sharply in the face of increased public criticism and a federal lawsuit over the constitutionality of the practice. That lawsuit was settled earlier this year.
It was in 2012 when Kelly directed the executive officers of each precinct to personally audit stop-and-frisk activity to assure quality of police action. Stops declined in almost every quarter since the beginning of 2012 and dipped to 191,588 last year.
Criminologists have said that the NYPD under Kelly relied on increased stops, particularly in crime hot spots, to help keep crime down as the size of the department shrank. But the increase in stops led to charges of racial profiling, which the police department always denied.
The latest stop-and-frisk data showed that the racial and ethnic breakdown of the subjects of stops has remained close to historic averages, with black and Hispanic individuals making up 83 percent of those stopped; whites 12 percent; and Asians 5 percent.
McClatchy-Tribune News Service
Copyright 2014 Newsday