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Queens Chronicle

The stop-and-frisk database

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Posted: Thursday, July 22, 2010 12:00 am

The last thing you want to do when crime is on the rise is hamstring your police department. But that’s just what state lawmakers and Gov. David Paterson have done by barring the New York Police Department from maintaining its full stop-and-frisk database.

The NYPD had been keeping records of all individuals summarily stopped, questioned and searched by officers who thought they looked suspicious, regardless of whether they were ticketed for anything or charged with a crime. That understandably raised concerns over civil liberties, but the information has proven invaluable in solving crimes.

These are just some examples, as detailed in the New York Post last Saturday.

• After a 16-year-old girl was shot dead in Brooklyn last May, a friend of hers told police that someone had threatened the victim the day before her killing. Using the database, police caught the alleged gunman because he and his accomplices had been stopped in the area where the threat was made.

• When a Manhattan teenager was beaten and slashed by five other youths who nearly killed him, police found two teens who had been stopped in the area. The victim identified them as among his attackers and they were arrested.

• When a string of burglaries hit Borough Park in Brooklyn, one detective hit the database. He found a man who had been stopped near several of the break-ins. Guess who then confessed to eight burglaries?

Those are the concrete examples of the database being used to protect the public, the kind of events that prompted Mayor Mike Bloomberg, Police Commissioner Ray Kelly and other city officials to blast the state for the change in law.

There are no concrete examples of civil liberties being violated through the database —except for those who believe its very existence is an affront to freedom. But when the government can track you through your cell phone or EZ-Pass, and your Internet usage is recorded, that seems like a relatively small concern. The best argument against the database is that it’s a slipperly slope toward a police state, but there’s no real evidence backing that up.

As Paterson said, balancing liberty and security is always difficult. In fact he just came down on the security side in a separate matter, contending that all convicted criminals should have their DNA put in a state database, even for the lowliest misdemeanor. And he admitted during a radio interview that he was conflicted about signing the database restriction law. We understand that conflict, but believe he came down on the wrong side in the end.

Con Ed — on it

Beating up on Consolidated Edison is practically an official pastime in New York City, and the ubiquitous utility has certainly earned its share of criticism over the years. But not this summer.

This June was reportedly the hottest ever recorded, and July has offered nothing but brutally hot and humid days, along with sudden, fierce storms. But for the most part the power has stayed on. A few hundred homes in Queens have lost electricity, but it was quickly restored. More widespread and long-lasting outages have been reported on Long Island and in Connecticut.

Con Ed’s managers and workers alike have earned congratulations for a job well done. This year, as the ads say, they’ve truly been “on it.”

Welcome to the discussion.