Does “Stop and Frisk” actually decrease crime?

I was watching the debate last Monday and one of the things that stuck out to me (besides Trump’s impeccable duck face) was the argument he made for resolving the racial tensions in America… Implementing ‘Stop and Frisk’. The segment of the debate Lester Holt asked bother candidates how they would fix the racial problems in the country. The entire segment is only about 15 minutes long.

Donald Trump states in the debate that America needs more law and order. The streets are dangerous and implementing the stop and frisk will decrease crime significantly like it did in NYC. Lester Holt goes on to say that ‘stop and frisk’ was ruled unconstitutional they way that New York did it because it was shown to have caused racial profiling. Trump denies that it is unconstitutional. Now, we can all agree that we need to improve the relationship between community and police. I am even trying to address the issue through my studio project (we are designing a police station/community center for the Hill District in Pittsburgh). I would like to use science to fact check Donald Trump in his argument that stop and frisk would actually reduce crime (or reduce the tensions between community and police).

First thing you need to know is what Stop and Frisk actually is. Stop and Frisk is the policing policy that was implemented by the New York Police Department which allows them the right to question and search a pedestrian if the police has “reasonable suspicion” that this person could be a potential danger.

Does ‘stop and frisk’ inherently promote racial profiling? YES

Does ‘stop and frisk’ decrease crime? NO

The idea of reasonable suspicion is not a new concept to police. The early 1980s, police were given the power to question someone if they had “reasonable suspicion” that there was a crime. Stop and Frisk was greatly implemented in 2002, with more than 97,000 stops. The stops increased even more in 2008. There were a lot of people that disagreed with this policy, saying that this program mostly targeted the African-American community. Mayor Bloomberg defended the program by calling out the African-American community as more violent (This is very untrue. Race has nothing to do with violent tendencies and only reinforces the idea that maybe this program does in fact cause racial profiling?). There were thousands of people that attended silent protests against ‘stop and frisk’ but it wasn’t until August 12, 2013, that the US Courts finally ruled that the way that NYPD was stopping specific pedestrians on the basis of “reasonable suspicion” was unconstitutional. 


So how does politics relate to science? Science is used to determine whether correlation equals causation. Does Stop and frisk lower crime rates? When Stop and frisk was implemented in NYC, the crime rates went down. Does this necessarily mean that this is a causation? If we were to do an experiment on this, we could take away stop and frisk and if the crime rises, we know that the correlation does equal causation. Luckily NYC found stop and frisk to be unconstitutional and we’re able to look at the statistics of crime and police stops. Let’s see what happened….


Even though the number of stops decreased substantially in 2015 from 2011 (by more than 650,000) the amount of total crime that year was lower in 2015. This is one “experiment” that shows that the correlation between the stop and frisks and crime was not a causation.

Trump may have told America in the debate that murder rates are up since they have ended ‘stop and frisk’ in New York but *Fact check* this is a lie. Trump doesn’t know what he’s talking about, especially when it comes to race relations. Not only does this not work but it also has been proven to cause racial profiling. I do not wish that this posts will try to sway you to vote a certain way; I am simply here to keep everyone informed on what policies will work for the country and what policies will definitely not, regardless of which one of these people we put in the White House.


4 thoughts on “Does “Stop and Frisk” actually decrease crime?

  1. Matthew O'Brien

    I think that it was interesting to see someone enter the realm of politics with one of these posts. Unfortunately, I feel that you dramatically oversimplified a very complex and controversial issue and did so with some very bare bones science that is potentially misleading.

    With regards to Stop and Frisk and Donald Trump, I will not opine. I feel there is a time and a place for that and it is not here. I will offer some points to perhaps provoke some further thought into this issue. For example, your claim that the African American community is no more violent than other demographics is simply false. According to the government of New York City itself, African Americans commit a disproportionately large number of violent felonies such as murder (59.1%), robbery (61.9%), felonious assault (51.3%), and grand larceny (51.8%) despite only making up 23% of the population there. These facts cannot be ignored just because they are a painful reality that is difficult to talk about rationally without accusations of racism, discrimination, etc. Are these numbers explained by an inherent propensity within black people to commit crimes? Absolutely not! To believe that is truly racist and not to mention scientifically ridiculous. But the fact remains… In New York City, violent crimes are more likely to have been committed by African Americans than by any other demographic (especially whites). There is a reason for this. I do not know it and neither do you. Perhaps it is a community mentality that needs to change?

    But when a government is tasked with the protection of its citizens, this data (or any other) cannot be disregarded in an attempt to not ruffle and feathers. Perhaps Stop and Frisk is not the way to go, but it will certainly take a lot more than your post to shed any light on that question. I want a police force that protects us proactively, not one that is just very good at documenting crime after it happens. I sincerely hope that society finds a way to take racial statistics into account in a way that does not discriminate unfairly or infringe upon the rights of law-abiding citizens. On that I hope we agree.

    1. Hannah Marie Helmes Post author

      Thank you for your comments. I appreciate seeing another person’s viewpoint, though I do not agree with you that correlation equals causation. There may be statistics that claim that African Americans are more likely to be violent but, I believe that this is a misleading statistic that only promotes racism. May I offer you a third variable? You say that I don’t know the reason but please let me offer my hypothesis. I believe that there is a third variable that causes there to be increase in crime in African Americans. I believe that institutionalized racism causes more African Americans in poor conditions and causes more crime but does not in fact cause African Americans to be more inherently violent than any other race in this world. If you would like to educate yourself more on this subject, pleases watch the Documentary “13th”, which you can find on Netflix.

  2. Heather Grace McDermott

    Hi Hannah! This was a very interesting topic to me due to the upcoming election. First off, I am NOT stating that I believe that Stop & Frisk is any way ethical or the right way to decrease crime in our country. However, your blog post does not include any randomized or controlled experiments where one city is has enforced the Stop & Frisk policy while the other city doesn’t. Unfortunately, we cannot reject your null hypothesis that the Stop & Frisk law reduces crime and accept your hypothesis that the law does absolutely nothing. I do absolutely agree with you that this law does cause racial profiling. There is an extreme amount of evidence to prove this as well. To me, that should be an automatic sign that the law is unconstitutional and that it should NOT be used to reduce crime. Hopefully one day there will be science to prove what you are saying. Lets also hope that Trump does not make it to the white house to even make this legal in our country again.

    1. Matthew O'Brien

      US Presidents do not have the unchecked power to create laws. Also, stop and frisk was a New York law, not one that would be affected by the President. This nation uses a system called federalism that must be understood before making statements like the one that you ended your comment with! I will refer you to the United States Constitution to learn more about it.

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