The historically low numbers of murders and shootings in New York City this year are further testaments to two truths — we have the best police force in the world protecting us, and the practice of stop, question and frisk is helping keep guns off our streets.
In 2012, there were fewer murders than there were during any of the previous 50 years the NYPD has been tracking the crime. This year alone, murders have plummeted by 19 percent from 2011. Shootings are also the lowest they have been since the police began following that statistic two decades ago.
As Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly recently noted, New York’s homicide total would be 1,224 with Chicago’s murder rate and 3,635 with Detroit’s. Neither Chicago nor Detroit utilizes stop, question and frisk, and there is no doubt that the policy is one of the premier reasons that New York is the safest large city in America.
During my 11 years on the City Council and as Chair of the Public Safety Committee, I have worked closely with Commissioner Kelly to make our City safer, fight for more police officers, and defend stop, question and frisk — which is the only method of getting the gun before the toddler playing in the sprinkler can be shot in a “drive-by.” Stop, question and frisk means fewer guns in the hands of criminals, which means fewer murders. It is much more difficult to kill even your intended target when you have to get out of the car.
Just as there are bad elected officials, bankers and doctors, there are bad cops who make bad stops. However, we overwhelmingly see good police officers trying their hardest to implement a necessary, but confusing and often dangerous, policy. That is why constant oversight of stop, question and frisk is essential. It is heartening that many critics who have in the past called for the abolition of stop, question and frisk are now in agreement with me and saying the practice must be kept, but reformed.
The Public Safety Committee has held more hearings on this topic than any other issue besides Anti-Terror. I, along with the late Phil Reed, wrote the law banning racial profiling in the City, and it was at my urging that the NYPD instituted a policy of explaining the reason for every stop, which includes providing a card with a legal explanation. Furthermore, I was the first to call on the police not to retain the information obtained from stops for an unreasonable time. In the future, there will be more reforms to ensure that stops are done with courtesy and respect for civil rights.
The remaining detractors can only argue with the facts and the law-abiding public for so long. Virtually none of the opponents of stop, question and frisk have any criminal justice background, and yet they continue to make infantile arguments like, “stop and frisk is collecting less guns.” Of course it is, because the policy has been working! Stop, question and frisk has not only physically removed thousands of guns from the streets, but it has also made criminals less willing to take their weapons out in public for fear of being stopped. However, since critics never believed stop, question and frisk worked, it is therefore impossible for them to accept that it is the reason the police are now collecting fewer and fewer guns.
Despite the historically low amount of gun violence this year, our City was not as fortunate with its overall crime rate. Although crime in New York City has dropped by over 32 percent since 2001, and by roughly 75 percent since 1993, this year we saw total crime rising in all five boroughs for the first time in two decades.
While the number of stop, question and frisks conducted increased this year, thus helping prevent criminals from using their guns, the drastic decrease in the number of police officers patrolling our streets has hurt the NYPD’s ability to fight other forms of crime.
That’s why heading into 2013, my wish for our City this New Year is this — more guns off our streets and more cops patrolling them.
Peter Vallone Jr. is the Councilman for the 22nd District in Western Queens and chairman of the Public Safety Committee.