Sunday, May 13, 2012

NY cops boost stop-and-frisks - US news - Crime & courts - msnbc.com


"'If history is a guide, the vast majority of those lives saved were young men of color. Last year 96 percent of all shooting victims in New York were black or Hispanic, as were over 90 percent of murder victims,' Kelly said."

It seems the defense of this policy that unfairly targets blacks and Hispanics is that blacks and Hispanics commit the most crimes. So are they officially supporting racism now? Perhaps this is true in some areas. If you look at things from a criminal psychologist's POV, poor minorities are the most likely to commit certain crimes: they have the least opportunities and resources and the greatest adversity. Many turn to selling drugs because it is the only way they know to make money. I'm not defending "poor crime." My point is that even if blacks and Hispanics commit the most crimes, on average, this policy is making things worse for two key reasons:

First, it is justifying the targeting of people of color, which will lead to more people of color being put behind bars. There are criminals everywhere, but if you pay most of your attention on a particular group, then members of that group are proportionally more likely to get caught and end up behind bars. Stopping crime is a good thing. But this becomes a self-fulfilling, self-justifying racist policy. It is part of the reason jails in the US are predominantly filled with people of color, despite proportionally being much less numerous than white Americans.

Second, and more importantly, it makes things worse by putting these people behind bars. They are already statistically more likely to commit certain crimes - through no fault of their own: they were simply born black/Hispanic and poor in a big city; marginalized and discriminated against. Then they are unfairly targeted because of their race. If they make a mistake, more likely than it is so for whiter, more affluent people, they will be caught - as well as found guilty because of unconscious biases. Again stopping crime is a good thing. But will the problem improve by throwing these poor, young people behind bars. It does not solve a problem. It addresses a symptom, but not the illness. Going to jail often means that those who get out are more likely than not to return. We need a way to prevent crime but not target poor people of color and throw them behind bars.

Yes, I don't doubt stop-and-frisk has reduced crime. It reminds me of Bush supporting the surge in Iraq in 2007. He justified it by telling us how it reduced violence. Of course. More troops, less violence. More stops, less crimes. If we all went through metal detectors and were strip searched and had our computers searched, we would catch a lot more people. Crime would drop. But I think we can all agree that that scenario is not ideal. Privacy is a good thing. Sorry if you disagree. Think about all the things you wouldn't want to broadcast to the world about yourself, or kept in a file somewhere forever and possibly brought out if you happen to annoy someone with access to it. Information is power. I think we will see this more tangibly in the near future. Stop-and-frisk allows officers to look through your personal belongings. I don't currently know if they are able to write things down, photograph, look through your phone, etc. You may not be doing anything wrong, but would you want a stranger to grow through all your personal belongings on any given day and keep some record of them. Many people don't have a problem with this. God bless them. However, I think these people are being a bit naive if they can't see how, especially in our age of growing technological capability, such an invasion of privacy can be very harmful, whether you've done something illegal or not. We want to be protected. But that doesn't mean we need to give ourselves over completely to Big Brother.

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