CrimeSolutions.gov

Additional Resources:

Program Profile: Stop, Question, and Frisk in New York City

Evidence Rating: Promising - One study Promising - One study

Date: This profile was posted on July 10, 2018

Program Summary

This is a policing strategy in which officers may stop and detain an individual if they have reasonable suspicion that the person is committing or about to commit a crime. The program is rated Promising. Significant effects were found on measures of non-traffic-related crime incidents in three of the five boroughs of New York City. A U.S. Federal Court ruled that stop, question, and frisks as implemented were unconstitutional and appointed a special monitor to institute substantive reforms.

Program Description

Program Goals/Target Sites
Stop, Question, and Frisk (SQF) is a policing strategy intended to intervene and control crime in concentrated crime hot spots in New York City. The approach has been applied across the five boroughs of New York City: Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx, and Staten Island. The strategy is implemented across microgeographic or very small hot spot areas in the city, such as specific street segments or particular intersections.

Program Components
SQF is used by officers during their normal patrol duties when they have a reasonable suspicion that an individual is in the process of committing a crime or is about to commit a crime. Under these conditions, officers may detain the person to question and perform a frisk to determine whether the person is in possession of any illegal items such as drugs or weapons. The approach as applied in New York City was part of a hot spots policing strategy that focused on small geographic areas where crime was concentrated (Weisburd, Telep, and Lawton 2014; Braga, Papachristos, and Hureau 2014).

Program Theory
SQF is grounded in deterrence theory. As the certainty of detection or apprehension for wrongdoing is perceived to increase, the incidence of such behavior should decrease. Thus, by increasing police presence in concentrated crime hot spots, police act as sentinels whose presence should discourage offending (Weisburd et al. 2015).

Additional Information
The implementation of SQF in New York City was met with controversy, with opponents arguing that the approach targeted young minorities and specific neighborhoods unfairly (see Gelman, Fagan, and Kiss, 2007; Ridgeway, 2007; Stoud, Fine, and Fox, 2011). This led to a federal court case regarding the constitutionality of SQF. As Weisburd (2015) explained, “In Floyd v. City of New York (2013), the U.S. Federal Court of the Eastern District of New York ruled that SQFs as carried out in NYC were unconstitutional and appointed a special monitor to institute substantive reforms” (p.32).

Evaluation Outcomes

top border
Study 1
Overall, Weisburd and colleagues (2015) found that Stop, Question, and Frisk (SQF) was associated with statistically significant decreases in the probability of nontraffic-related crime (including assault, drug-related crimes, weapon-related crimes, and theft) occurring at the street segment level in the Bronx, Brooklyn, and Staten Island. These findings suggest “that SQFs occurring last week have a deterrent effect on crime this week” (41). SQFs did not have a statistically significant impact on nontraffic-related crime in Manhattan or Queens.

Non-traffic Related Crime Incidents, Manhattan
No significant differences on non-traffic related crime incidents were found in Manhattan compared to the control group.

Nontraffic-Related Crime Incidents, Bronx
In the Bronx, however, SQF was associated with a statistically significant decrease in nontraffic-related crime incidents. Each additional SQF that occurred on a street segment this week is associated with a 2-percentage-points decline in the probability of a crime occurring in that same segment the following week.

Nontraffic-Related Crime Incidents, Brooklyn
Similarly, in Brooklyn, SQF was associated with a statistically significant decrease in nontraffic-related crime incidents. Each additional SQF that occurred on a street segment this week is associated with a 2-percentage-points decline in the probability of a crime occurring in that same segment the following week.

Nontraffic-Related Crime Incidents, Queens
No significant differences on nontraffic-related crime incidents were found in Queens compared with the control group.

Nontraffic-Related Crime Incidents, Staten Island
In Staten Island, SQF was associated with a statistically significant decrease in nontraffic-related crime incidents. Each additional SQF that occurred on a street segment this week is associated with a 7.3-percentage-points decline in the probability of a crime occurring in that same segment the following week.
bottom border

Evaluation Methodology

top border
Study 1
Weisburd and colleagues (2015) used a quasi-experimental, time series single group design, to assess the association between Stop, Question, and Frisks (SQF) and non-traffic related crime incidents in New York City. Crime incidents involving rape and other sex crimes were not included. Incident report data were collected at the street segment level and then aggregated to detect borough-level trends. Incident reports and the exact location of SQFs at the microgeographic level were provided by the New York Police Department. Incident reports are generated by police officers or detectives after a response to a police service request. If the officer believes that response to be founded, then an incident report is produced. Incident reports, therefore, are more inclusive than arrest reports but less inclusive than calls for service, and include the coordinates of the incident and the date of occurrence.

On average, street segments in the city had far less than 1 crime per month and 0.08 crimes per week. However, the hottest 1 percent of street segments in New York City (those with the highest concentration of crime) produce 25 percent of crime at street segments, with an average of more than 7 crimes a month and 1.7 a week. Similarly, the average street segment had about 1 SQF a month (0.29 per week) during the period of study, whereas the hottest 1 percent of segments had on average 15 SQFs a month and 3.58 a week.

The researchers used the Bartik’s Instrumental Approach and analyzed the data at the micro-unit level (single street blocks within a week). A linear probability model was used to assess the impact of an SQF conducted in 1 week on crime in the following week over a 6-year period (2006–11). A total of 87,254 street segments were included in the analysis.
bottom border

Cost

top border
There is no cost information available for this program.
bottom border

Other Information

top border
Weisburd and colleagues (2015) carried out spatiotemporal analyses in the Bronx only. Based on these analyses, they conclude that the practices of Stop, Question, and Frisk (SQF) “have immediate crime prevention benefits across short distances and within a limited time frame (less than 5 days), that there is little evidence of spatial displacement, and that there is some evidence… of a diffusion of crime control benefits” (p. 46).
bottom border

Evidence-Base (Studies Reviewed)

top border
These sources were used in the development of the program profile:

Study 1
Weisburd, David, Alese Wooditch, Sarit Weisburd, and Sue–Ming Yang. 2015. “Do Stop, Question, and Frisk Practices Deter Crime?” Criminology and Public Policy 15(1):31–55.
bottom border

Additional References

top border
These sources were used in the development of the program profile:

Braga, Anthony A., Andrew V. Papachristos, and David M. Hureau. 2014. “The Effects of Hot Spots Policing on Crime: An Updated Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis.” Justice Quarterly 31(4):633–63.

Center for Constitutional Rights. 2015. Floyd et al. v. City of New York, et al. Retrieved September 11, 2015, from ccrjustice.org/home/what-we-do/our-cases/floyd-et-al-v-city-new-york-et-al


Gelman, Andrew, Jeffrey Fagan, and Alex Kiss. 2007. “An Analysis of the New York City Police Department’s ‘Stop-and-Frisk’ Policy in the Context of Claims of Racial Bias.” Journal of the American Statistical Association 102:813–23.


Goldstein, Joseph. 2013. “Judge Rejects New York’s Stop-and-Frisk Policy.” New York Times, August 13.


Meares, Tracey L. 2014. “The Law and Social Science of Stop and Frisk.” Annual Review of Law and Social Science 10:335–52.


Ridgeway, Greg. 2007. Analysis of Racial Disparities in the New York Police Department’s Stop, Question, and Frisk Practices (Document Number: TR–534–NYCPF). Santa Monica, Calif.: RAND Corporation.


Stoud, Brett G., Michelle Fine, and Madeline Fox. 2011. Growing Up Policed in the Age of Aggressive Policing Policies. New York, N.Y.: John Jay College of Criminal Justice.


Weisburd, David, Cody W. Telep, and Brian A. Lawton. 2014. “Could Innovations in Policing Have Contributed to the New York City Crime Drop Even in a Period of Declining Police Strength? The Case of Stop, Question, and Frisk as a Hot Spots Policing Strategy.” Justice Quarterly 31(1):129–153.

bottom border

Related Practices

top border
Following are CrimeSolutions.gov-rated practices that are related to this program:

Hot Spots Policing
Used by many U.S. police departments, hot spots policing strategies focus on small geographic areas or places, usually in urban settings, where crime is concentrated. The practice is rated Effective. The analysis suggests that hot spots policing efforts that rely on problem-oriented policing strategies generate larger crime reduction effects than those that apply traditional policing strategies in crime hot spots.

Evidence Ratings for Outcomes:
Effective - One Meta-Analysis Crime & Delinquency - Multiple crime/offense types
bottom border


Program Snapshot

Geography: Urban

Setting (Delivery): High Crime Neighborhoods/Hot Spots

Program Type: Community and Problem Oriented Policing, Hot Spots Policing

Current Program Status: Not Active