Philly Once Had More Stop-and-Frisks than NYC

July 16th, 2012 by admin

In 2007, Philadelphia Mayor Michael A. Nutter promised the people of Philadelphia he would use a “stop and frisk” method to crack down on crime. He followed through on that promise, with the city’s police making 136,711 such stops that year. In 2009, they made 253,276, more per capita than the 685,725 NYPD made last year.

But, unlike New York, city officials in Philly have made dramatic changes to the way their cops conduct searches. In the past few years, they have shifted the focus from random searches, done willy-nilly on whomever they please, to tracking and monitoring the searches to ensure they are done with respect to civilian civil rights.

According to the NY Times, the Philadelphia Police Department has set up a database to track the stops, adopted new training procedures, and allowed an independent monitor to come in an evaluate their practices. While the move may not have the desired effect on the crime rate, it is the constitutionally-sound thing to do.

The changes came after a 2010 class action lawsuit that said the cops of Philly were disproportionately stopping minority men—the same problem NYPD is experiencing.

Since they’ve scaled back the searches, however, violent crime has climbed. The homicide rate for the first half of this year is 189; for the same period last year, it was 169.

Supporters of the old tactics credit the more aggressive stop-and-frisks with dramatically cutting the crime rate. There was a 22% reduction in homicides from 2007 to 2009. Shootings also declined. But, what they fail to point out is that such crimes were largely down across the country, even where cops weren’t aggressively making stops to search.

For the people of the city, stop-and-frisks are just another reason to mistrust the police. This is particularly true for men who are repeatedly stopped for doing nothing wrong, confronted by officers who are aggressive and rude for no reason.

During the lawsuit that changed the practices, researchers found areas in North Philadelphia were people were more frightened of the police than they were of criminals.

According to researcher Fernando Montero, and anthropologist at the University of Philadelphia and himself a victim of nine stop-and-frisks, the tactic “actually makes the interactions with the police more hostile and more full of suspicion.”

It’s these hostile exchanges and general mutual distrust that has led the people of some communities to close ranks and not assist officers investing violent crimes, for example. The police act like they don’t understand why people aren’t more willing to speak with them, but are aggressively patting them down based on nothing more than neighborhood and skin color the next day.

Have the changes to Philly’s stop-and-frisk practices helped boost the crime rate? There’s no way to be certain. But a balance must be found between crime prevention and civil rights, and the new way of doing things is an improvement.

If you’ve ever been stopped by police for seemingly no reason, you know how scary and frustrating it can be. If you are then arrested and charged with a crime, the exchange is even more serious. Contact an attorney to discuss any criminal charge.