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Study: Stop, Question, Frisk Doesn’t Reduce Crime

Brian Kelly Twitter:@brpkelly
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Clifford Miller was charged with a double homicide in Northwestern Missouri. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)

Clifford Miller was charged with a double homicide in Northwestern Missouri. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)

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ST. LOUIS (KMOX)-Despite claims by city officials, local researchers say the police tactic of stopping, questioning and frisking ‘suspicious’ people on the street had no impact on New York City’s two-decade long reduction in crime.

University of Missouri-St. Louis criminologists Richard Rosenfeld and Robert Fornango recently completed the first in-depth study of SQF, looking at statistics on a precinct-wide, year-to-year basis from 2003 to 2010, “If there are effects, what our analysis suggests is that they are probably very localized and dissipate pretty rapidly over time.”

SQF is a policy where police officers are to stop, question and then frisk someone if they have a ‘reasonable suspicion’ a crime has, or is about to, occur.

Rosenfeld says in New York City, officers are making just under 700,000 stops a year. He says overwhelmingly the stops are of young black and Latino men and only 6 to 8 percent of the stops result in arrest.

Rosenfeld says more research needs to be done, so he and Fornango are now studying the tactic’s impact on a more localized, month-to-month basis.  However, Rosenfeld doesn’t think that study will change the bottom line, “We didn’t find that these effects, even if they might exist locally, persisted so that we could see them in year-to-year results or were widespread enough so we could see them in precinct-level results.”

He says what’s known so far certainly shows that New York City officials are wrong to credit the program with contributing to the decline in crime, “We couldn’t find evidence that stop, question and frisk was associated with year-to-year changes of crime at the precinct-level. It seems to me, given the available evidence, it’s a stretch for officials to attribute a decade-long crime drop that is city-wide to this program.”

As for St. Louis, Rosenfeld says he would recommend the city’s police department not adopt SQF but stick with its current tactic of using intelligence-driven patrols in high crime areas.

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