2paragraphs: Stop and Frisk is in the news again, with shootings up in NYC a year after the controversial tactic’s big scale back. There’s no way of proving (or disproving) a relation between these two things, given the myriad factors one needs to take into account. How then can any law enforcement methodology really be assessed when there is no control factor?
Richard Rosenfeld: That’s right, there is no way to gain a definitive answer to whether the recent spike in shootings is connected to the reduction of New York’s stop, question, and frisk (SQF) program. But there could have been, had the NYPD introduced SQF experimentally, that is, by trying the program in some randomly chosen areas and withholding it from others, the way new drugs are routinely tested. Instead, SQF was introduced everywhere, all at once, making it impossible to determine whether the enforcement strategy reduces crime.
Still, some insight can be gained regarding the impact of SQF on crime, albeit without the rigor we might want. If SQF reduces crime, then shootings should have spiked the most in those areas with the greatest reduction in SQF. That comparison should involve controls for other factors (e.g., poverty, residential instability, unemployment) known to affect crime. That is what we did in our assessment of the program’s crime impact published in the journal Justice Quarterly. We found little to no impact of the program. We are continuing our research. Others are as well, and, finally, so is the NYPD. But, again, we’d know a lot more about the program had it been introduced properly in the first place.
—Richard Rosenfeld, professor of criminology at the University of Missouri-St.Louis, is studying stop-question-and-frisk in New York.