Reality Check: Was 'stop-and-frisk' effective?

Story highlights

  • Stop-and-frisk is a type of aggressive policing
  • It's unclear what the policy's impact was on New York City's crime rate

Washington (CNN)Donald Trump was asked by a member of a Fox News town hall audience this week what he would do to reduce violent crime in the country's inner cities.

"Right, well, one of the things I'd do, Ricardo, is I would do 'stop-and-frisk.' I think you have to. We did it in New York, it worked incredibly well and you have to be proactive and, you know, you really help people sort of change their mind automatically. You understand; you have to, in my opinion. I see what's going on here. I see what's going on in Chicago; I think stop-and-frisk, in New York City, it was so incredible, the way it worked."
    Stop-and-frisk is a type of aggressive policing that allows -- some say encourages -- officers to detain a person on virtually any type of vague suspicion, search that individual without a warrant and arrest the person if any kind of illegal substance or weapon is found.
    It grew out of the tough policies of New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, now a vocal Trump supporter and trusted adviser, under the theory that aggressive enforcement of even minor laws would lead to a reduction of violent crime. Proponents of stop-and-frisk argue that it would be especially effective in getting illegal guns off the streets.
    Critics of the program questioned its constitutionality. They also pointed to the fact, documented in several studies, that the policy falls heaviest on black and Latino men.
    But is Trump right that stop-and-frisk "worked incredibly well?"
    It is clear that crime rates plunged in New York during Giuliani's time in office, as well as the terms of his successor, Michael Bloomberg, who ramped up the stop-and-frisk program.
    What's less clear is the policy's impact on the lower crime rate. The number of stops in the city rose dramatically from 97,296 in 2002 to 685,724 in 2011, a seven-fold increase, according to data compiled by the New York Civil Liberties Union based on police reports.
    But the number of homicides did not fall in proportion to the soaring number of stops, dropping from 587 in 2002 to 515 in 2011. Moreover, the NYCLU also found that in the more than 5 million stops between 2002 and 2013, guns were found in only 0.2% of the cases.
    Other violent crimes also fell during this time period. Assaults were down 13%, robberies declined 27% and rape declined 35%, according to City-Data.com. But none of these drops came close to corresponding with the huge increase in stop-and-frisk cases.
    New York's stop-and-frisk policy was found to be unconstitutional by a federal judge in 2013 and current Mayor Bill de Blasio vowed to end it in 2014. The newly elected mayor dropped the city's appeal of that decision.
    That decision elicited cries from some proponents that it would lead to a surge in violent crime. However, except for an uptick in 2015, the city's homicide rate continued its downward trend, reaching historic lows in the first quarter of 2016.