Here we go again: another specious racial-profiling controversy. Al Sharpton has announced his intention to sue the New York Police Department for allegedly racially profiling black New Yorkers, based on recently released data on police stop-and-frisks. In fact, the data show that police are stopping blacks too seldom and whites too often. But even if the numbers didn’t so completely undermine Sharpton’s claim, the real scandal of his anti-police demagoguery would remain his refusal to acknowledge the black community’s most pressing problem: sky-high crime rates.
As long as blacks commit crime in numbers wildly disproportionate to their representation in the population, police data are going to show higher involvement with blacks than with whites. According to victims and witnesses, blacks committed 68.5 percent of all murders, rapes, robberies, and assaults in New York last year, though they are only 24 percent of the city’s population. Whites, who make up 34.5 percent of New Yorkers, committed 5.3 percent of those crimes. Blacks are nearly 13 times more likely to commit violent crimes than whites.
In light of this massive disparity in crime rates, the police stop-and-frisk data are not just reasonable but inevitable. Last year, 55 percent of police stops were of blacks—a proportion far below the 68.5 percent of violent crime that blacks commit—while 11 percent of stops were of whites, nearly double their 5.3 percent contribution to violent crime.
There are two reasons that the high black crime rate affects the chance that black men will be stopped in greater numbers than whites. First, the NYPD focuses its resources where crime is highest, and that is in black neighborhoods. In recent years, the NYPD has saturated high-crime areas with rookie cops, whose job is to intervene in crime early by stopping suspects. (It isn’t just the NYPD that wants more cops in those neighborhoods; their law-abiding minority residents constantly beg the department for more police protection.)
Second, because police officers are 13 times more likely to be searching for a black than for a white suspect for any given violent crime—based, again, on the victim’s own identification of his assailant (or, in the case of homicide, on that of witnesses)—their rate of stopping blacks, as they search for suspects, will be far higher than that for whites. So black men do face a higher chance of getting stopped in New York. The blame for that does not rest with the police, however; it rests with the criminal element within the black community that is terrorizing the hundreds of thousands of law-abiding minority New Yorkers.
If Sharpton really wanted to get the black stop rate down, he would be working day and night to bring the crime rate down. He would be telling young men to stay in school and to marry the mothers of their children, so that boys do not grow up without fathers. He would be demonizing criminals, not the police. Until that happens, New Yorkers should regard his concern for the well-being of the black community with skepticism.