Protecting New York's Criminal Class
Scant evidence exists that the favored liberal gun control measures have any impact on crime whatsoever. And, when you think about it, why should they, as the guns liberals want to control are virtually all owned by law-abiding, non-criminal members of society.
But suppose those concerned with controlling crime came up with a plan to take guns away from criminals—the people who actually murder other people with guns. And suppose the system actually worked, and in places where the plan had actually become policy and was implemented, thousands of illegal guns were confiscated from criminals and the murder rate fell by over 80 percent over twenty years. And suppose most of the murder victims, meaning most of the people who as a result of this plan were not murdered, were minorities. You would think that the liberal establishment would be thrilled.
But you would be wrong.
Over the last two decades, crime in New York City has dropped by an astonishing 80 percent. In 1990, 2,245 people were murdered in the city; in 2012, only 414. Much of the reason has been revolutionary police tactics developed by the New York Police Department aimed at stopping crimes before they are committed rather than trying to catch the offender afterwards, arresting him, and sending him off to Sing Sing. As a result, New York now has the lowest crime rate of the twenty-five largest American cities.
But the same liberals who think the Second Amendment is some sort of aberration that should be erased from the Constitution, and who are thrilled with Governor Cuomo’s new tough gun control law prohibiting, inter alia, magazines that hold more than seven rounds, are up in arms that the NYPD actually takes illegal guns away from criminals—in violation of their Fourth Amendment rights.
So a group called the Center for Constitutional Rights (founded by left-wing activist lawyer William Kunstler), with pro-bono assistance from the elite law firm of Covington & Burling, sued the NYPD, alleging that stop and frisk—one of the techniques that helped trigger the drop in crime—is merely racial profiling, is unconstitutional, and should be banned. No less a liberal than New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, whose political fortunes have been immeasurably enhanced by the crime statistics, is a staunch supporter. "I can't imagine any rational person saying that the techniques are not working and that we should stop them," Bloomberg has said.
The trial in the stop and frisk case, Floyd v. The City of New York, wound up a couple of weeks ago in Federal Court in New York City. The judge designated the case a class action, so there are actually about three million plaintiffs (everybody who has been stopped, questioned, or frisked since 2005). If it is decided as many people fear, the NYPD will have to resort to looking for criminals after the fact, and the crime rate will presumably grow back to 1990s proportions.
Under stop and frisk, if a cop on the beat has reasonable suspicions or observes activity fitting established patterns of criminal behavior, he ask the subject questions. Is someone trying to force open an apartment door in a high-crime neighborhood? Is someone loitering near a business that has repeatedly been robbed? Is someone following too closely behind a shopper in an area where there has been a rash of muggings? During 2012, police confiscated no fewer than 8,000 guns from frisk subjects, many of which were illegally possessed. And, of course, the deterrent effect of stop and frisk is incalculable.
The liberal establishment is apparently convinced the police are supposed to sit back and do nothing. New York City’s current policy encourages them to investigate what is going on before the apartment is burgled, the business is robbed, the shopper is mugged, or the murder victim is shot. If nothing wrong is going on, the busy policeman simply resumes his beat.
Liberal ideology has, in this case, trumped reality. Because 88 percent of the stops allegedly involve minorities, stop and frisk is, in the liberal mind, inherently racist. It is, to them, immaterial that young black and Hispanic males are much more likely to commit crimes than other members of society. In 2011, blacks, who make up 23 percent of New York City’s population, committed 66 percent of all violent crime and 73 percent of all shootings.
Even some of the plaintiffs’ supporters reluctantly concede stop and frisk has its benefits. Jonathan More, one of the plaintiffs' lawyers, claims that although police are imposing quotas on stops, he told liberal National Public Radio, “Stop-and-frisk is a legitimate tool for law enforcement to use.”
And it is also immaterial to the liberal elites that if minorities are committing the vast majority of crime, they are also the victims. According to Heather MacDonald of the Manhattan Institute, young black males in New York are 36 times more likely to be murdered than young white males. Since this innovative policing was begun some twenty years ago, 80 percent of the reduction in murder victims was in minority neighborhoods. The result? Neighborhoods that were once crime-ridden and so dangerous that they were virtually uninhabitable are now as safe as the Upper East Side. NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly recently reminded a local public radio station, "Ninety-six percent of the shooting victims in New York City are black or Hispanic.” Minorities have disproportionately benefited from the drop in crime, but there is still much progress to be made.
But why is it that the elite liberal establishment would rather protect the people who commit black-on-black or Hispanic-on-Hispanic crime rather than the victims? This is a perverse form of liberal civil rights advocacy and adherence to liberal ideology that prioritizes the interests of criminals over the rights of innocent people in communities of color to be safe on the streets.
With the trial in Floyd v. The City of New York concluded, those rights are in the hands of Federal District Judge Shira Scheindlin. While the case won’t be decided for months, the judge has ruled against the NYPD before, and the New York law enforcement community is very concerned that she could put an abrupt end to its most effective crime-fighting technique.
Last week, just hours before the time for post-trial briefs expired, who should enter into the fray but Attorney General Eric Holder and the Obama Justice Department. In what the New York Daily News described as a move “sure to send daggers through One Police Plaza and City Hall, and a slap in the faces of Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly and Mayor Michael Bloomberg,” Holder announced that if the case is decided against the City and stop and frisk banned from use, the judge could appoint a “monitor” to oversee the police department, meaning that Holder’s department would, as it has in several other cities, intervene in the internal affairs of the NYPD to see that it is adhering to the Judge’s order.
People living in cities like Boston and Washington, D.C. are more likely to be murdered than New Yorkers. But if stop and frisk is struck down—and there are countless copycat lawsuits against police departments from dozens of urban left-wing groups—whose police practices are cities likely to emulate?
If judges outlaw data-driven law enforcement strategies that have been proven to work, expect to see the old discredited results of reactive policing return to New York. And expect them to arrive, coupled with a wave of new crime, in a city near you.