Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Is that a furtive movement or are you just glad to see me?

There's a shorthand (trope) that's used in stories like this one, that crime is just so obviously higher in certain neighborhoods, which is why there are more cops on patrol there, which is why there are more events (stops, detentions, arrests, etc.) and it's all very natural and the way of the world.

What people mean is, certain types of easily-pegged, statistics-boosting crimes are more common in certain neighborhoods, and crime is so much harder to spot and harder to prove in other areas so don't blame the cops for going after the easy stat-booster. Otherwise cops would be swarming all over Wall Street frisking everybody in a suit. OK, that's rather extreme-- the '80s stereotype of coke-snorting brokers and traders is surely past. No way anything untoward is going on around Wall Street! But minority neighborhoods are NOT the only places where people walk around and look furtive when cops stare at them. Spread the force out a little, willya?

Tip o' the TOTF fedora to the Times editor, though, for keeping an otherwise minimally-reported factoid in the story, the increased pressure to use the CompStat database.
Published: May 12, 2010

Blacks and Latinos were nine times as likely as whites to be stopped by the police in New York City in 2009, but no more likely to be arrested.

The more than 575,000 stops of people in the city, a record number of what are known in police parlance as “stop and frisks,” yielded 762 guns.

Of the reasons listed by the police for conducting the stops, one of those least commonly cited was the claim that the person fit the description of a suspect. The most common reason listed by the police was a category known as “furtive movements.”

No comments: