On Tuesday, November 5, Bill de Blasio (above) was elected mayor of New York City. During his campaign, de Blasio promised he would get rid of Ray Kelly as police commissioner if elected. A large part of his desire to oust Kelly is due to the fact that the commissioner used a method called stop-and-frisk to apprehend criminals. This method has been somewhat controversial — many claim it is racist because it tends to target African-Americans and other ethnic minorities.
However, the policy has been successful in driving down crime rates. If eliminating stop-and-frisk could cause crime rates to increase, why would anyone want to do so? Moreover, why would any sane person want to remove Ray Kelly from office when he’s made the city so safe?
What is Stop-and-Frisk?
Stop-and-frisk is a policy in which police officers have the authority to take suspicious-looking people off the street and search their person for weapons or drugs. Ray Kelly enacted the policy in an effort to drive down crime in New York, especially in its seedier neighborhoods. For the most part, the policy has worked. Criminals carrying guns without permits have been arrested, and crime has gone down. As a result, you can walk in any neighborhood in the city during the day without fearing for your life.
Those who oppose stop-and-frisk do so because they feel the practice is bigoted. Opponents say those who receive pat downs are almost always a member of a racial minority. They claim that stop-and-frisk unfairly targets these groups.
However, racial minorities are only targeted because they are more likely to commit crimes. Police are instructed to look for minorities because they are far more likely to be violent criminals. This is a cold, hard fact, not an unfair racial prejudice. Why would you only target white people when they’re not the ones carrying illegal weapons?
Many of the city’s more dangerous neighborhoods are also ethnic neighborhoods. Of course, police will pat down fewer white people when patrolling these neighborhoods because they’re not as likely to live there. Unfortunately, ethnic neighborhoods are some of the poorest. This is nothing against the people who live there — again, it’s just a fact. Sometimes ethnic minorities may not be U.S. citizens and may not be able to find good jobs. Sometimes they may simply be new to the country and have not yet been able to get on their feet. Often, ethnic and racial minorities were oppressed in the past and may have not yet been able to move themselves out of poverty. In any case, the poorer a neighborhood is, the more likely it is to be crime-ridden.
The Future of New York
The New York of today is not the New York of twenty or thirty years ago. In the 1970s and 80s, it wasn’t safe to take the subway, let alone walk around the Yankee Stadium in the south Bronx. Today, however, violent crime in the city is very low; and you don’t have to worry about being caught in crossfire or mugged on your way home from work. Taking the subway is one of the fastest, cheapest, and safest ways to get around the city. It would be a shame for crime to rise simply because people have a problem with stop-and-frisk. Under Ray Kelly and his staff, New York became a safe place to live and work. Sadly, though, an increase in crime may very well occur if Kelly is forced to leave office.
Adrienne Erin is a skeptical freelance writer and designer who is always turning a critical eye to the news. To see more of her work, check out this infographic about preventable death, one of America’s most embarrassing statistics.
Photo credit: azipaybarah (Creative Commons)