To hear Mayor Bloomberg and NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly explain it, stop-and-frisk is a messy but invaluable tool used to keep weapons off the street. But an analysis of stops in 2012 confirms that the tactic is vastly more effective at generating marijuana arrests. The NYCLU [PDF] looked at last year’s 532,911 stops and found that while the NYPD recovered 729 guns, more than 5,000 people were arrested for marijuana possession. Indeed, marijuana was the top reason to be arrested during a stop in 2012, ahead of trespassing and criminal possession of a weapon.
Surveys have shown that whites use marijuana at higher rates than blacks or Hispanics, yet of the 26,225 marijuana-related stops made in 2012, only 8.7% involved whites—61.4% involved blacks or Hispanics.
Another finding in the report seems to lend credence to the issue raised by the judge in the federal stop-and-frisk on Monday: justifying the overwhelming percentage of blacks and Latinos being stopped could lead police to stop people solely for the color of their skin, not any reasonable suspicion.
For instance, blacks or Latinos make up only 7.8% of the residents in the 17th Precinct, which covers Kips Bay, Turtle Bay, and Murray Hill. But 74% of those stopped in that precinct were people of color. In Greenwich Village’s 6th Precinct, that number was 83.5%, despite the fact that only 8% of the neighborhood’s population has that racial makeup.
It’s also important to note that stops decreased by 22% from 2011; marijuana arrests are also on track to fall by 20%; crime has also decreased, but Kelly and Bloomberg’s defense of stop-and-frisk has not. “This gives the lie to the NYPD’s repeated claims that more and more stops are needed to save lives,” NYCLU Associate Legal Director Chris Dunn said in a statement.
By Christopher Robbins