The U.S. District Court decision striking down New York City’s stop and frisk law may condemn the nation’s largest city to a return to the days of crime and mayhem which preceded the administration of Mayor Rudy Giuliani. Since 1992, the number of homicides in the Big Apple has dropped from almost 2,000 a year to about 400.
The ability to stop and frisk men lingering on street corners in the middle of the night in high drug and crime areas has played a key element in reducing the murder rate. Particularly in concert with New York’s mandatory minimum three year sentence for possession of an unlicensed, loaded firearm within the city, the law has forced guns off the street and driven down the murder rate appreciably.
To measure the impact of the stop and frisk and mandatory minimum gun sentence laws, compare New York with Philadelphia. Both have lots of poverty — 21% in New York and 25% in Philadelphia. The per capita police presence in each place is comparable. But Philadelphia, with a population of 1.5 million, had 334 homicides last year while New York, with 8.5 million had only 450.
But the Court decision threatens to take away the weapon that has kept the city free of deadly weapons and to send the gun murder rate skyward again. Liberals who push for gun controls, which do little to stop crime, should be hollering bloody murder (literally) about the court decision which puts guns back on the streets in New York. But they are not. It wouldn’t be fashionable.
More to the point, the unconstitutionality of the stop and frisk law hinges not on the standards police use to conduct searches, but on the number of minorities searched. So even if cops use racially neutral measurements like presence on a high crime corner, dress, the hour of day, but these criteria generate a disproportionate number of black and Latino stop and frisks, they are unconstitutional.
So even if the criteria are constitutional, if the result of their application is disproportionate the demographic concentrations, it violates the constitution, according to the Court. By this logic, the entire criminal justice system is unconstitutional since, while each measure taken by courts, prosecutors, cops, judges, defense lawyers, and juries may pass constitutional muster, the outcome is clearly to convict minorities at a ratio higher than their percentage of the population. Never mind that they commit more of the crimes!
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