There Are a Lot of Ways to Visualize Stop-and-Frisk. This One Is the Best
What's the best way to look at New York City's controversial stop-and-frisk policy? WNYC made a map overlaying stops and gun recoveries in order to show the vast gulf between the two. Stopandfrisk.org made a map based on precincts in order to show where the NYPD has concentrated its efforts. A class at Columbia's journalism school created a map showing every single stop from 2012, one dot per stop, and color-coded the map by race; it practically doubles as a piece of art.
But the best visualization of the stop-and-frisk program isn't exactly a map. BKLYNR's "All the Stops" feature shows stop-and-frisk data independent of its geography. While sacrificing a sense of place, you gain a very explicit understanding of the volume and proportion of the NYPD's program. Also, by foregoing the association between 2012 data (released by the NYPD and organized by the New York Civil Liberties Union) with physical location, "All the Stops" is able to convey visually not just the racial disparities of stop-and-frisk, but also the age of stopped persons, their sex, why they were stopped, why they were frisked, and the outcome of the stop.
Unlike with maps, you can use "All the Stops" to tell a little story. In this instance, I'll start with the race of the stopped person, why the person was stopped, and then what the stop resulted in. Keep in mind, each dot represents 1,000 stops.
Here we go!
What was the suspect's race?
What was the reason for the stop?
(Notice that a lot of these categories are kind of ambiguous: furtive movements, suspicious bulges, casing a victim or location [which might as well be "looking at things"], clothes commonly used in a crime, fits a relevant description.)
Was an arrest made?
Was a gun found?
We start with every New Yorker, and narrow our way down to those who the stop-and-frisk program are intended to stop: people carrying illegal firearms.
While it'll be years before researchers can tell us with any degree of certainty whether stop-and-frisk "works," it's definitely fair to say right now that it disproportionately humiliates, for specious reasons, people of color who are not illegally carrying firearms.
Top image: New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg speaks during a news conference with New York Police Department (NYPD) Commissioner Ray Kelly (L) about a judge's ruling on "stop and frisk" at City Hall in New York August 12, 2013. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid