The Stop-and-Frisk Rate Went Down in 2012

NEW YORK, NY - JANUARY 27:  Opponents of the New York Police Department’s controversial "stop-and-frisk" policy rally on January 27, 2012 in the Bronx borough of New York City. The NYPD says the stops assist crime prevention while opponents say they involve racial profiling and civil rights abuses. According to the New York Civil Liberties Union, during the first nine months of 2011 514,461 city residents were stopped by the NYPD. 451,469 were innocent (88 percent), while 54 percent were black, 31 percent Latino and 9 percent white.  (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)
Stop-and-frisk protesters in the Bronx last year. (Mario Tama/Getty Images) Photo: Mario Tama/2012 Getty Images

The NYPD conducted 533,042 stop-and-frisks in 2012 — 22 percent fewer than 2011. While that's certainly a significant drop, it wasn't enough to appease the controversial practice's many opponents. The New York Civil Liberties Union pointed out that only 800 illegal firearms were confiscated in last year's searches, which they called "an unbelievably poor yield rate for such an intrusive, wasteful and humiliating police action." And, as always, the vast majority of people stopped were minorities. According to numbers released by the NYPD, 55 percent of people stopped in 2012 were black and 32 percent were Hispanic. Whites and Asians made up 10 and 3 percent of the stops, respectively.

The department defended the numbers by arguing that they closely resembled the makeup of last year's violent crime suspects, 66 percent of whom were black and 26 percent of whom were Hispanic. Meanwhile, NYPD spokesman Paul Browne attributed the decrease in total stops to changes in officer training and deployment: After a jump in stops in the first quarter (and a rebuke from a federal judge), the department began assigning fewer officers to Operation Impact, a program that places recent Police Academy graduates in high-crime areas with instructions to look for "suspicious behavior."